Understanding the Green New Deal and How Farmers Could Change the Future

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress, has received considerable attention in recent months. Although she’s certainly incensed many conservatives, no one can accuse the New York representative of resting on her laurels. She’s already considered to be one of the rising stars of the Democratic party and has played an integral role in pushing the Green New Deal — an old idea that seems to be more relevant than ever. But what exactly is included in the 14-page resolution and what impact will it have on everyday Americans?

Rather than being a formal proposal, the Green New Deal has been described as a list of ideals that the U.S. could and should adopt in order to preserve the planet. The need for renewable energy sources, smart power grids, energy efficiency infrastructure upgrades, and clean public transportation is mentioned in detail, along with the concepts of labor laws, higher education, public ownership, living wages, trade unions, obtaining consent from indigenous people, universal healthcare, housing accessibility, clean air and water supplies, and more. It’s a far-reaching document that includes many of the issues that left-leaning Americans care about, though critics have dismissed the deal as being utopian and socialist in nature.

But the deal also covers areas that are immensely pertinent to the nation’s farmers and food suppliers. One goal of the Green New Deal is to establish a carbon-neutral economy — and one of the most effective ways to do that is to focus on agriculture. What most people don’t realize is that current agricultural activities account for up to one-third of carbon pollution. However, farming could also provide a solution to the problem, in the form of carbon farming. Basically, carbon farming involves the enrichment of soil in order to guard against the negative effects of climate change. Although the implementation of carbon farming would require help from government incentives in order to work, many experts agree that this option is actually the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

The deal would actually improve job outlook for farmers, as well. Ideally, the deal would create millions of so-called “green collar” jobs across the country. Although there are currently more than 3 million farmers working in the U.S. today, carbon friendly farming would require more labor to execute and would therefore require more workers to take on that labor. Some experts have also suggested that the U.S. government might consider reinstating the Civilian Conservation Corps, which were responsible for planting trees during the Great Depression to slow down soil erosion.

It’s not only the equipment farmers use to till the soil or the soil content itself that’s having a negative impact on the earth, either. Advocates of sustainable agriculture have noted that the industrial overproduction of food is actually another major cause of pollution, food waste, and harmful emissions. Implementing a type of minimum wage for farmers, often known as “parity pricing,” would remove the incentive from overproduction while reducing waste and promoting quality over quantity. More than 12,000 farms go out of business every year, and it’s often the large scale farms that receive the backing they need to survive.

Shipping all that excess food, of course, is also doing a number on our eco-system. Now that Americans are used to getting anything they want within 24 hours, it’s not surprising that there are more vehicles on the road, in the water, and in the air trying to deliver those goods. In fact, there’s nearly 12 million of these vehicles moving goods over the transportation network. Although insulated packaging and dry ice will preserve perishable food for up to 48 hours during shipping, proponents of sustainable practices would likely point out that reducing agricultural over-production will mean reduced transportation activity. While the Green New Deal has been a bit vague on that point, the outlined ideas do include prioritizing green rail transport over air travel. The bottom line is that transportation is the largest attributor of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. — but it seems many people don’t like the idea of having to change the way they travel. If other areas are targeted and transportation is reduced as a secondary effect, however, we might not be able to argue with the facts.

Ultimately, the Green New Deal is getting its fair share of pushback, and some of the included components may not be in any way realistic. But for many Americans, the fact that these issues are being officially addressed and are being highlighted so prominently in news coverage could be a step in the right direction. Whether or not the ideals included in the deal will be implemented remains to be seen.

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