Thank you for introducing the bipartisan FARMERS FIRST Act to help ensure that agricultural workers have access to mental health care. Farming is both physically and emotionally taxing and the year-to-year risks that agricultural producers face can bring emotional stress to the breaking point.
As Colorado, and the world, grows warmer, the effects of climate change will further compound the physical and mental stresses on farmers in the state. First, heat waves are correlated with an increase in negative mental health events and acts of aggression and violence. Second, we have already experienced more frequent extreme weather events and greater variation in surface water availability due to increased temperatures, reduced snowpack, and less predictable precipitation. These factors are likely to increase the risk of crop failures, putting farms and farmers at risk. Third, the long-term effects of a warmer climate like earlier seasonal onset, warmer diurnal temperatures, and insect infestations (like the pine beetle unchecked by cold winters) will force many farmers to abandon crops they have grown for generations.
Fortunately, we have an opportunity to put the breaks on climate change and keep temperatures from running away faster than we can adapt. Climate change legislation should be one of Congress’s top priorities this year and next, and Colorado’s interests should be represented as bills are crafted. I urge you to take action in at least the following two ways.
First, please ensure programs to address climate change are part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change and agricultural producers have some of the best opportunities to make a meaningful difference in greenhouse gasses. Congress should sponsor research, development, and experimentation of ag practices which can sequester carbon, reduce methane, increase yields, and save money on inputs. Congress should also find ways to incentivize expanding America’s great forests: it’s hard to find a more effective way to remove carbon dioxide from the air than trees.
Second, I urge you to cosponsor a bill enacting a market-based climate change solution like carbon fee and dividend. A national program to price the externalities of greenhouse gas emissions is likely the most effective action that we can take to keep the climate stable and avoid major disruption to daily life that we risk with unchecked global warming. A price on carbon would spur American innovation, create clean energy jobs, and improve our quality of life.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter and your dedicated service to Colorado,