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Roger Johnson

Date
25 November 2013
Roger Johnson

Farmers will be “instrumental part” of the Clean Revolution 

Roger Johnson was elected National Farmers Union’s 14th president during the organization’s 107th anniversary convention in 2009.  Prior to leading the family farm organization, Johnson, a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, N.D., served as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, a position he was first elected to in 1996.

He spoke at the Opening Ceremony of Climate Week NYC in September 2012 on the role farmers can play in reducing US greenhouse gas emissions. 

“We’re delighted to be here – all of us.  The Farmers Union is a grassroots organization.  As you’ve heard, we’ve been organized over a hundred years in the US.  We’ve got members in all 50 states.  But the preponderance of our membership is in the central part of the country, where much of agriculture thrives.

"The message that I have today is that: I think farmers are in many ways the original environmentalists.  While it is true that agriculture is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, it is also just as true that, with the right innovations in agriculture, we can become one of the largest methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  And we all need to eat, so there is a win-win solution that we all can be a part of.

"It’s interesting.  If you read the news and study history, you know that we are just in the midst of one of the worst droughts in this country that we’ve seen in five or six decades – sort of on par with what last happened in the 1930s.  Historically, many of you will know that in the ‘30s, the scenes that are seared into the minds of many of us are scenes of dirt blowing so rapidly, so all over the place, in the country that it actually drifted like snow drifts.  And we ruined vast areas of land because of the erosion that came from wind blowing dry dirt that simply could not stay put.

"What’s different about the drought this year is that you don’t see those pictures anywhere.  And the reason for that is that farmers have dramatically changed their farming practices and are using many more soil-conserving methodologies of tillage, of planting, of growing their crops to hold the soil more in place.  That’s one example of even though we are one of the original beneficiaries, if you will, of the green revolution, why I believe we will also be an instrumental part of the Clean Revolution in agriculture.

"Climate change is very real to us.  One of the things that our organization did about a half a dozen years ago is we started a voluntary program to encourage farmers to do the right things environmentally, and to do scientifically proven methodologies of reducing emissions - and then taking those practices, documenting them, packaging them, aggregating them, and selling them on the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).  We were the nation’s largest aggregator of these practices before the market busted as a result of the political dysfunction you heard about earlier.

"I say this only to say that: we can do this again.  And the final point I would make about that is even though we had millions of acres of land signed up under contractual obligations in order to receive those payments through the CCX, when that whole system went away, the contracts, even though they were no longer enforceable, the vast majority of the farmers that had signed up continue to follow those practices today.  They want to do the right thing.  We want to do the right thing.  We want to be part of the Clean Revolution.  And I think we are well situated to that.

"All we ‘re waiting for is for the right signals to come from government to say these are the kinds of policies that we have in place and then we will do it even more rapidly than what is occurring today. Thank you.”

Watch the speech recorded live at Climate Week NYC:

See on YouTube

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