Home Climate change The Virginia Green New Deal:  The Role of Farming and Rural Economies

The Virginia Green New Deal:  The Role of Farming and Rural Economies

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by Anthony Flaccavento; Abingdon, VA

Many of the people speaking out against a Green New Deal are making extreme claims about its negative consequences.  Among these claims is that it will force people to stop eating meat and eliminate cows and cattle from our landscape.  A very negative picture is being concocted, intended to ensure that farmers and other rural people oppose a GND.

In fact, if the GND is properly conceived and designed – as a ‘bottom up’ economic development and ecological restoration strategy – it will strengthen farmers, forest and other land-based businesses and create a range of new and better economic opportunities in rural communities.  Below is a partial list of some of the potential opportunities and benefits from a GND in rural communities.

  1. Investment in local food and sustainable farming infrastructure, including farmers markets, ‘food hubs’ and other facilities that connect small farmers to larger markets, along with locally owned processing facilities for sustainably raised meats, dairy, produce, hemp and other products.
  2. Expansion of existing ‘working lands’ programs that share the cost of conservation practices on farms, ranches and forest lands. Primarily funded by USDA, these programs have a proven track record of increasing farm profitability while enhancing water and soil stewardship.
  3. Payments for ecological services, through which farmers, ranchers and forest owners who sequester carbon in their soils are compensated annually. Think about it:  good farming and forest management provides us with essential goods, while simultaneously pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the soil.  Several states are developing legislation to incentivize and compensate for these climate mitigation practices, and Virginia should be among them.
  4. Expanded research and technical support for sustainable land management through land grant universities, enabling farmers and others who manage land to increase their productivity while restoring soils and ecological health.
  5. Support for new and limited resource farmers to learn and apply sustainable farming practices, and to access markets for their products.
  6. Investment in and support of clean energy generation on farms and other rural lands, including solar installations on strip mined land, wind turbines on farms and other applications.
  7. Support for local businesses creating energy efficiency, clean energy or energy storage technologies and systems, such as ACME Panel company in Radford. A GND should support these home-grown job creators while dramatically reducing subsidies to big boxes and other outside corporations.
  8. Support for local businesses and utility cooperatives focused on energy efficiency in residential, community and commercial buildings. While a national campaign to make our buildings truly energy efficient is being characterized as ‘elitist’, it is precisely the opposite, saving working families money while greatly reducing emissions.

As too often happens, the political right has gotten ahead of us on the Green New Deal, spreading a narrative about government takeover, socialism and the elimination of cows and cattle.  We’ve got to nip that nonsense in the bud and let folks know that a GND in Virginia and nationwide will help farmers, rural economies and rural communities.