The Congressional impasse regarding federal funding has not been resolved, keeping closed federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and access severely limited on federal websites. Federal agriculture and food assistance programs were dealt a double blow this week with expiration of many Farm Bill programs which had been extended through September 30.
American Farmland Trust President and CEO Andrew McElwaine issued a statement, calling on the Congress to fund the government and pass a comprehensive Farm Bill.
The combined effect of expiring program authorizations and lack of funding severely impacts USDA’s ability to deliver financial and technical assistance to farmers and consumers. Conservation programs like the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) that have authorization through the end of fiscal year 2014 now have only one year of authorization remaining. Assistance to low-income consumers through programs like the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) could soon be limited.
Contingency plans for federal agencies like USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are available on the Office of Management and Budget website.
Bipartisan Policy Center Senior Fellow and American Farmland Trust Advisor Dan Glickman recently spoke to the BBC World News about the political dynamic in Congress and lessons from the last government shut down when he was Secretary of Agriculture.
Political disagreement on federal funding is dominating the legislative calendar and is squandering precious time that could be spent finishing a comprehensive Farm Bill. The Senate this week again sent farm legislation to the House along with named conferees to a conference committee. The House must now name conferees to formally begin the conference process.
IPCC Releases Climate Assessment Report
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. A total of 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries and more than 600 contributing authors from 32 countries contributed to the preparation of the report.
Among the findings, the report found that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. Further, the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification. The report points to human influence in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes.
The report warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. The findings have significant implications for agriculture as atmospheric patterns continue to change and influence factors such as growing seasons and precipitation rates.
American Farmland Trust has long advocated for agricultural solutions to climate change, both in terms of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions as well as helping agriculture adapt to its impact. These important themes will be the focus of subsequent reports of the 5th Assessment which will include: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; Mitigation of Climate Change; and a Synthesis Report.