Farm group focuses on climate change

Climate change isn’t an issue the National Farmers Union hates talking about.

In fact, climate took centre stage at the NFU’s 50th anniversary convention.

Many of its members see fighting climate change as a key focus for the organization now and for the foreseeable future. It’s something that has brought new members and heightened commitment to the organization.

“Climate is really the motivating purpose behind everything I’ve done,” said Bess Legault, a Peace region B.C. vegetable producer and the new women’s vice-president for the NFU.

The three-day convention had a presentation on “What would a Green New Deal for farmers look like?” plus a panel discussion considering what it’s like for farmers “on the front line of the climate emergency.”

The NFU has an extensive climate change policy and set of priorities that don’t shy away from measures that upset many farmers, such as carbon taxes.

Kingston, Ont., NFU organizer and activist Aric McBay said farmers like him care about the “climate emergency” because it “affects land-based people first, especially farmers and indigenous people.”

Those farmers who want to do something to limit human-caused climate change often feel overwhelmed and powerless because of the size of the problem.

But if farmers are urged to find practical ways for “achievable but radical outcomes” in addressing “tangible common goals” in climate change reduction, they can feel they’re taking real on-farm steps to make a difference.

Through a campaign of local “kitchen table” discussions, an NFU effort helped farmers find one to three things each could do on their farms to reduce emissions or sequester carbon.

Those discussions revealed farmers asking for more education, resources and extension help in finding and developing farm-based actions.

Legault said combatting climate change on farms could take many forms.

“I don’t think it’s a black-and-white solution,” said Legault.

“I think there’s a whole lot of grey and there’s a lot of room for different ways of sustainable production to provide the food that we need in this country.”

The NFU focus on climate change at its 50th convention connects it to general efforts in Canada to address climate change before some scientists believe devastating results will occur.

McBay said that makes it a good point from which the NFU can move forward.

“Our next 50 years really depend on the next 10 years,” said McBay.

“Because we have this short period of time, we really need to look at how we can use this moment as a launch pad for the next 50 years.”

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