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A diverse coalition of trees and ranchers, organized by the Sunrise Movement and Regeneration International, presented a letter to Congress, urging passage of a Green New Deal

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GREG WILPERT: Representatives of a national coalition of 10,000 U.S. farmers and ranchers announced the delivery of a letter to Congress in support of the Green New Deal on Wednesday. The letter urges lawmakers to make agricultural reform policy an integral part of the effort to address the climate crisis via a Green New Deal. The Sunrise Movement and Regeneration International are the two groups that organized the coalition. Garrett Blad, press spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement and Indiana farmer, spoke from personal experience about the ways that a Green New Deal could help farmers and ranchers.

GARRETT BLAD: Farmers in America are suffocating. I know because I’ve seen it firsthand. More than that, far too many people who are scared about climate change see farmers are a part of the problem, not necessarily a part of the solution. For far too long, politicians and corporate executives have divided us. They’ve told us that environmentalists and farmers can’t work together. Well, I’m here today with a few friends behind me to say, “That is history.” Today, tens of thousands of young people with the Sunrise Movement are linking arms with the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers in this historic coalition to demand a Green New Deal that reinvests in our family farms and empowers them to be the heroes we need them to be to stop the climate crisis.

A Green New Deal must break the stranglehold corporations have on farmers and empower them with the tools and financial support to be the good stewards we know that they are. With the Green New Deal, we can pay farmers to repair our soil and lead the world in drawing down carbon from our atmosphere. With the Green New Deal, we can support a new generation of farmers to grow healthy food for our communities.

GREG WILPERT: Thomas Oppel of the American Sustainable Business Council said that the argument that the economy and the environment are in opposition to one another is completely false.

THOMAS OPPEL: In fact, saving our planet with the steps we need to take to mitigate climate change… So saving our planet means saving our economy. The economy of the 21st century will be fueled by renewable energy, by regenerative agriculture, by taking the kinds of steps and creating the kinds of innovative technologies that we need to deal with climate change. These are going to open up all sorts of new businesses, entrepreneurial opportunities, jobs. We need to move into a 21st century economy, and part of that means we need to take on the crisis of climate change now. And in doing so, that’s going to rescue our economy; that’s not going to slow down our economy. What will slow down our economy are betting on old fashioned technologies. If you bet on fossil fuels, you might as well bet on telegraphs and typewriter repairs.

GREG WILPERT: Katherine Paul of Regeneration International explained why farmers and ranchers would support a Green New Deal.

KATHERINE PAUL: Policy support is going to the wrong kind of agriculture. And that makes it extremely difficult for farmers who want to farm this way to compete in the marketplace. And we have two kinds of farming in this country. We have the industrial model and we have the model that Will Harris talks about here, where under the regenerative model, farming is actually a contributor to clean water instead of a polluter. And it contributes to local… It keeps more money in the local economies. It’s fine to disrupt, in our opinion, the industrial agricultural model. It’s benefiting corporate shareholders because they get priority, as we all know, in terms of decisions. And farmers and ranchers are really left behind. We wouldn’t have so many bankruptcies if the model that we have now were working for the kinds of farmers who can be climate stewards.

GREG WILPERT: Craig Hickman, a Maine farmer and member of the Maine State Legislature, argued that Maine’s Green New Deal is a start for what a national Green New Deal could look like.

I would hope that we have to shift, shall we say, our investments away from corporate ag and much more towards small family farms. And localities within states need to be at the table, determining what food systems work best in their communities that allow for access to healthy, nutritious food that is affordable. And so, I’m here for that reason. We have a Green New Deal in Maine which is about economic justice, it’s about worker training, it’s got some of the same provisions of making sure we reduce carbon emissions by a certain date.

GREG WILPERT: Greg Wilpert for The  Real News Network in Washington, D.C.

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Gregory Wilpert is Managing Editor at TRNN. He is a German-American sociologist who earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University in 1994. Between 2000 and 2008 he lived in Venezuela, where he first taught sociology at the Central University of Venezuela and then worked as a freelance journalist, writing on Venezuelan politics for a wide range of publications and also founded, an English-langugage website about Venezuela. In 2007 he published the book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso Books). In 2014 he moved to Quito, Ecuador, to help launch teleSUR English. In early 2016 he began working for The Real News Network as host, researcher, and producer. Since September 2018 he has been working as Managing Editor at The Real News. Gregory's wife worked as a Venezuelan diplomat since 2008 and from January 2015 until October 2018 she was Venezuela's Ambassador to Ecuador.