Activist-led farming policies are a recipe for famine and unrest. International ultimatums have forced farmers to slaughter their herds or shut down. Revolts in the Netherlands and Sri Lanka have captured headlines. Branded as “climate-smart ag,” Team Biden is pushing these bad ideas in the United States. 

How much do you know about saving the American family farm? Play this “Two Truths and a Lie” game to find out. 

A. Today, 98% of farms are family owned. 
B. Farming accounts for 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. 
C. Science has proven climate-smart programs will reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. 

A. Truth!  During the 20th century, American agriculture experienced a significant transformation. The progression of new practices and technology shifted the industry from numerous small farms to fewer large farms. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of U.S. farms peaked at 6.8 million in 1935 with an average size of 154 acres per farm. In contrast, there were 2 million farms in 2022 with an average of 446 acres per farm. Even with the consolidation of farms, 98% are family owned, and it’s normal practice for three generations to be working side by side. 

B. TRUTH! More recent criticisms of the industry ignore the significant progress already made. Since 1990, farmers have cut Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions while increasing overall production. One analysis found that farmers today produce 80% more pork, 48% more milk, and 18% more beef. Over the same 30-year history, farmers have cut GHG emissions per unit of food by 24%. Most farmers will admit there is room for improvement, but a wholesale transition for this industry is unjustified. 

The push to slash emissions from the agriculture sector on strict timelines stands to cause more harm than good. Even more problematic than food-focused net-zero policies are the ones aimed at restricting the use and development of fossil fuels. Despite increasing evidence that these international efforts to transform the agriculture industry are causing more harm than good, these same ideas are being pushed by top Biden administration officials. This mentality has led to the creation of Climate-Smart Ag, a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative.  

C. LIE!  Climate-Smart Ag promises to cut 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which amounts to taking 12 million gas-powered vehicles off the road. Rosy promises aside, some scientists have warned these projections are likely overstated as the science has not yet proven these climate-smart programs will actually reduce GHGs. Other reports have found that cover crops don’t absorb as much carbon as previously thought and diminish crop yields. Even the head of USDA’s Energy and Environmental policy admits the science behind climate-smart ag is a work in progress. 

Bottom Line: Based on what we’ve seen abroad, transitioning the agriculture sector to “greener” or more “natural solutions” on arbitrary timelines comes with a host of consequences. Holding the line against these bad ideas will be vital to maintaining food security, rural economic development, and the continued success of our American family farms. 

To learn more, read the Policy Focus on Saving the American Family Farm.