BURLINGTON — Small farmers are some of the most vulnerable people in the country to the effects of climate change, area leaders said Wednesday at a roundtable discussion organized by the American Sustainable Business Council.
“There’s so much about climate change that will affect North Carolina’s ability to function as a prosperous state,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat who served on the panel.
She said the state’s large agricultural sector combined with the vulnerability of being a coastal state make it a crucial issue — but one that the Republican-controlled legislature continues to pretend doesn’t exist.
“We can’t even really talk about climate change, which is unfortunate given the current scenario facing our state,” Harrison said.
The event at TS Designs, a sustainable custom T-shirt company, was one of several nationwide the American Sustainable Business Council organized, each one focusing on a state’s key industry.
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For the North Carolina roundtable, talk centered on agriculture and the impact government programs had on climate change.
Some programs discourage sustainable practices, said Scott Marlow, executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, a Pittsboro-based nonprofit.
The federal Farm Bill and other legislation like it rely heavily on crop insurance rather than policies that could prevent climate change, Marlow said.
For example, diversifying crops and sequestering carbon emissions lower the risk of large losses, he said. But initiatives to increase those practices are usually on the chopping block during budget cuts.
While crop insurance is a vital program, Marlow said, it focuses on repairing damage rather than preventing it with sustainable practices.
And as climate change worsens, the cost of federally-subsidized insurance will only increase.
“We’re going to be paying more and more in terms of crop insurance,” Marlow said.
TS Designs President Eric Henry said he’s hoping to see regulation on a federal level since North Carolina lawmakers have passed anti-science measures in the past — like a 2012 law that banned the state from using the latest scientific research on sea level predictions.
That affected decisions on coastal policies.
“The science is overwhelming that basically, it’s happening and man has an impact. Unfortunately, our state government has decided not to participate.” Henry said