Farming for the Future: Systemic Changes for the Climate Crisis

A UU Advocacy Conference

Tuesday – Thursday, September 26, 27, 28

Thank you to UUA President Rev. Dr. Sofia Betancourt for addressing our conference and the need for UU’s to share our values in the public square.

Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, UUA President, virtual address to attendees of the Farming for the Future Conference, September 2023

UUs for Social Justice offered these conference highlights in their October newsletter:

UUs gathered for climate advocacy in DC

Unitarian Universalists came together in Washington, DC, in late September, to advocate for systemic changes in addressing the climate crisis. We used the farm bill as a vehicle for our advocacy conversations. We learned how farming and ranching can provide essential opportunities in addressing the climate crisis. We asked for conservation and climate-smart agriculture as well as equitable USDA programs.

Attendees heard from inspiring and informative speakers in the field Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group; Lloyd Wright, U.S. Department of Agriculture (retired); Joe Van Wye, Farm Action; Karyn Bigelow, Creation Justice Ministries; and Madison Mayhew, Interfaith Power & Light. See the speakers’ page

UUs meet their elected representatives on Capitol Hill to speak about justice and the farm bill.
Conference attendees meet with elected representatives on Capitol Hill, Photo from UUSJ

On Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) briefed us on her bill, the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R.5861 / S.1016) to address national greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts in the U.S. agriculture sector, including a national goal to achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2040. We were also joined by A.V. Whitney, of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s office, who shared comments on the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and his related bill EQIP Improvement Act of 2023 (S.658). Geoff Horsfield from the Environmental Working Group also shared insight on how to approach Senate agriculture staff.

UU constituents met with their Senate offices, Democrats and Republicans, many on the Senate Agriculture Committee. UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE) movement chaplains helped put front and center our progressive faith-based values and principles in our conversations.  We communicated our deep concern for the interdependent web of life. We shared our desire to see farmers offered the tools and programs needed to become partners in addressing the climate crisis. We shared that we see no division between people and the planet. 

UUs for a Just Economic Community convened this conference in partnership with UUMFE and UUSJ as well as the kind support of Side With Love. The UU Funding Program provided financial support to make the conference possible.

PLUS: Five Questions, Climate Justice, and the US 2023 Federal Farm Bill! A conversation with Pablo DeJesús, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice on the UUMFE webpage.

The Farm Bill—Farming for Our Future: Systemic Changes for the Climate Crisis, A UU Advocacy Conference for Healthy Soil, Food, and Communities. September 26-28, 2023, Washington, D.C.

If you eat food, you care about the Farm Bill–even if you don’t know it!

The farm bill connects the food on our plates, the farmers and ranchers who produce that food, and the natural resources—our soil, air, and water – that make growing food possible. 

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Why focus on farming to address climate change? About 11–14% of US greenhouse gases (GHGs) come from agricultural systems. Today’s technology can remove 178 billion tons of CO2 and reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere by 157 ppm—enough to get us back to preindustrial levels. 

Farm bills address many issues UUs care about including food quality and food chain security, soil and water contamination, food deserts, equity for small-scale producers, conservation, research, crop insurance, and nutrition programs – 81% of the 2023 Farm Bill’s budget supports programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps).
Farm Bill Fact Sheet

Congress puts forward only every five years a “must-pass” farm bill that determines the kind of food and farm system we have. Congress is writing the 2023 Farm Bill NOW: So NOW is the time for our UU voices to be heard. 

We need your voice to join a growing coalition to support sustainable, regenerative, and equitable farm policies. We cannot concede to the “normal” corporate agribusinesses dominating the conversation. Here are just some issues that you might be concerned about: 

  • While small-scale family farms struggle to survive, corporate farms get huge subsidies for mostly animal feed like corn. We must change the incentive structures.
  • Our soil has been degraded with the use of poisonous chemicals and pesticides. We need to do more, and better, with conservation and regenerative programs.
  • Livestock-Animal Methane CH4 is 28 times more potent in warming the atmosphere than CO2. We must get the agriculture sector moving in a climate-smart direction.
  • Livestock animals are kept in tortuous dirty CAFOs—Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. We need to stop new CAFOs and protect from biodiversity loss and contaminated water from animal waste.
  • For decades, the Department of Agriculture discriminated against farmers of color. Disadvantaged farmers need equal access to credit and federal resources. 
  • There are good USDA research and grant programs that are underfunded and don’t last long enough. When that happens, farmers return to what they did before.

Our Schedule

All Souls Church, Unitarian
9:00 a.m. Registration
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Speakers and networking (lunch provided).
Dinner on your own.
7:00 p.m. Concert with Jim Scott at All Souls.

All Souls Church, Unitarian
9:30 a.m. Registration
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Speakers, advocacy training (lunch provided).
Dinner on your own.
7:00 p.m. UU Service at All Souls

7:30 a.m. Drop luggage at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
8:30 a.m. Meet in Room 209 at the Capitol Visitor’s Center.
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Program and gathering.
10:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Advocacy meetings with our elected representatives (lunch on your own).
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Debrief at St. Marks and steps you can take back home.

Farming for Our Future: Speakers

Farming for Our Future: flyer

Farming for Our Future: Wed. evening Order of Service

Farming for our Future: Tuesday Evening Concert

Farming for Our Future: Wednesday Evening Service

We extend our appreciation to the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program for supporting this event through its Fund for Social Responsibility.

Questions? e-mail


Yes, we wish that, too—it is a question of technical capacity, organizing later than we might have, and lacking resources to do it well, not wanting to get hopes up and fail. We do have a seminar coming up this Thursday* that might be of interest, though of course not a replacement for the in-depth nature of the conference. Also, we will be streaming the evening events, so folks can connect at least a little.

Interesting that the farm workers union ATC in Nicaragua is promoting all of these things, and doing them. Find out how they achieved food sovereignty and reduced climate impact. Nicaragua has 1/8 as much greenhouse gas production per person as the US. Please promote speakers from Nicaragua ATC coming to Baltimore-Washington area this week including UMD in College Park. See website.

Good point! We should get over our “American exceptionalism” and be more willing to learn from other countries (though sometimes it is not new information or technology, but a return to the past or continuation of practices we dropped in the name of “progress”).

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