Why it's time to fight for stronger farming and carbon policies

Laws, oversight and guidelines are essential to the success of sustainability initiatives, and responsible business owners can make a big difference by fighting for policies that protect the environment. Here are two pro-sustainable business policy items the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations -- and information on how you can join the cause.

1. Harvesting a sustainable farm bill

Even in the current dysfunctional Congress, there is optimism about reaching agreement on a new Farm Bill, which expired Sept. 30. In fact, some in the conference committee working toward a compromise are hoping to make progress on a deal before the Thanksgiving break.

First enacted in 1916, the farm bill is typically reauthorized every five years. It represents billions of dollars in government expenditures that set the nation's farm, food and rural policy goals and priorities. Its impacts are far-reaching and include international trade, environmental conservation, food safety, rural economies and food assistance for low-income people.

The 2012 Farm Bill failed to pass, so we are currently operating under an extension of one passed in 2008. One option Congress has is to re-extend the existing bill, but for now work is underway to reach a compromise on a new five-year bill. That keeps the door open to insert sustainable policies.

What's at stake?

While food stamps and farm safety-net and crop insurance programs are important, significant sustainable agriculture programs also need to be included in the final bill. Among these are supports for family farms, protection of natural resources, investments in future farmers and ensuring real reform of commodity payments. GMO labeling is another policy that should be included.

Unfortunately, without pressure from sustainable agriculture champions, these important policies will continue to be left out.

What can you do?

Sign this business petition in support of sustainable agriculture policies in the Farm Bill.

Contact your elected officials and urge their support of a sustainable 2013 bill. 

2. Supporting new carbon rules

Last September, as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, the EPA announced updated carbon standards for new coal and natural gas-fired power plants. Coal plants will be subject to a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour, and natural gas plants will be limited to 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour. This standard would mirror earlier EPA efforts to regulate power plant pollutants such as soot and mercury under the Clean Air Act. They would not, however, apply to existing power plants. The EPA plans a separate rulemaking process for existing power plants next year. 

What's at stake?

In short, the new rules could begin phasing out coal plants. Coal plants emit about 1,700 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour, according to EPA data, making them the single largest emitter of carbon emissions in the United States. As they will not be able to meet the new standard, these rules will aid in the transition to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

What can you do?

Submit comments on the new rules here. And learn more about carbon pollution rules here.

Business owners are key to policy fights like these. It's time to make your voice heard.

Farming photo by bogdanhoda via Shutterstock