By Craig Ficenec, Volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Agriculture is getting more and more attention these days for its potential to sequester carbon in the soil. Many farmers and ranchers manage their land in ways that sustain production while offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from elsewhere. But how can we stimulate all sectors of the economy to reduce the emissions that cause climate change in the first place?

One economy-wide policy approach is a “carbon fee and dividend.” Such a policy would:

  1. Place a fee on fossil fuels at the source (oil/gas well, coal mine, port of entry) on a per-ton CO2 equivalent basis, staring low and increasing steadily every year.
  2. Return 100% of the net fees to American households on an equal basis, in the form of a monthly dividend.
  3. Place a border tariff adjustment on goods imported from, or exported to, countries without an equivalent price on carbon.

The logic behind carbon fee and dividend is that a predictable and steadily increasing carbon price will send a clear market signal, driving entrepreneurs and investors to speed our transition to a clean-energy economy. Border tariff adjustments would discourage businesses from relocating to countries lacking policies to limit emissions, while encouraging other nations to adopt an equivalent price on carbon. And as this clean-energy shift happens, the dividend would put money back in the pocket of every American, including farmers and ranchers, on a monthly basis.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a non-profit grassroots advocacy organization working to create the political will necessary for Congress to pass carbon fee and dividend legislation. CCL builds upon shared values rather than partisan divides, empowering supporters to express concerns of their local communities while working towards fair, effective, and sustainable climate change solutions.

An economic analysis of CCL’s policy proposal predicts it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by over half from 1990 levels within 20 years, while growing the economy and saving lives. This scale of progress will be needed to lessen the disruptions to agriculture that are forecast in the National Climate Assessment.

But any climate legislation would affect our nation’s farmers and ranchers in unique ways. CCL wants to hear from NFU members about how climate policy can best protect agricultural production without causing additional burdens on farm operations. We welcome NFU members to visit the CCL website, get to know a local CCL chapter, and share comments below.

Like what you’ve read? Check out our Climate Leaders home page, join the conversation in the NFU Climate Leaders Facebook Group, and keep up-to-date with NFU climate action by signing up for the mailing list.

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