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Pitch

Give financial incentives to grow crops in the Southwest that are climate-suitable in order to help replenish water and reduce GHG emissions


Description

Summary

The increasingly dire drought in the Southwest, especially in states that depend on the Colorado River for water for food and other crops, is partly to blame because of the incredible financial incentives given to the growing of crops otherwise unsuitable to the climate of the usually arid Southwest--namely, cotton.

The financial incentives for cotton crops are incredible--ridiculous at times, especially for a crop that requires so much more water than the area can reasonably supply without ultimate causing severe drought conditions. 

My proposal is to ultimately eliminate financial incentivization for cotton and alfalfa crops and instead shift toward incentivizing crops that are suitable for the increasingly arid climate of the Southwestern United States. 

While the initial phases of this proposal is a way to adapt to climate change, my proposal also involves planting trees and other crops that are carbon-negative, reducing GHG emissions over the long-term and thus helping to mitigate climate change. The carbon can be traded via some form of public market to help offset emissions.


What actions do you propose?

  • Make changes in the Farm Bill Act that encourage growing and exporting climate-suitable crops in desert areas
  • Encourage financing of sustainable agriculture training programs in high school and college/university for future farmers
  • Encourage existing non-climate suitable crop farmers to switch, via financial incentives and training, as well as establishing support to help them with the transition 
  • Fund programs which plant carbon-negative crops and tree orchards in order to offset emissions and help mitigate climate change effects
  • Establish a market for farmers to trade carbon credits to help offset emissions and thus achieve a carbon-negative commodity

 


Who will take these actions?

  • Federal government, namely Congress through its adapting new incentives and changes to the Farm Bill
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • State departments of agriculture
  • County and town committees 
  • Farmers 


Where will these actions be taken?

Southwestern United States, namely:

  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Western Texas
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Southwestern California


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Based on my estimations, my proposal reduces emissions from the Southwest farming sector:

  • by 15% by 2020
  • by 30% by 2030
  • by 50% by 2040
  • by 80% by 2050


What are other key benefits?

  • Gradual replenishment  of water resources in drought-stricken areas
  • Behavioral changes such as planting regionally suitable flora around homes 
  • New crop exports and regional economic benefits
  • Mitigation of climate change through zero-emissions targets and carbon sequestration 


What are the proposal’s costs?

  • Cost: Possibly upwards of 15 to 30 billion dollars over the next 20 years
  • Negative side effects: many farmers could lose livelihoods during transition; regional economy may collapse if transition does not work out


Time line

  • Short term (5-15 years): Approve changes to Farm Bill; Department of Agriculture establishes incentives for growing of new crops, as well as assistance for farmers making transitions; water restrictions put in place
  • Medium term (15-50 years): Establish training and degree programs for sustainable agriculture specific to Southwest region; Complete 70-75% transition to climate-suitable farms; exporting of crops; begin replenishment of water resources
  • Long term (50-100 years): Establish 90-95% transition to climate-suitable crop farming, as well as replenishment of water resources


Related proposals


References

https://projects.propublica.org/killing-the-colorado/story/arizona-cotton-drought-crisis

https://www.climatetrust.org/faq-agricultural-carbon-credit-projects