National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson today welcomed Pope Francis to the nation’s capital for the first-ever papal address of a joint session of Congress and specifically for the world-wide attention he has made for climate change. Johnson noted that the NFU board of directors recently selected climate change as the organization’s top issue area going forward because of the tremendous threat it poses to family agriculture.
“The attention that Pope Francis has brought to bear on the issue of climate change is a great gift to family farmers, ranchers and those who rely on them for sustenance. It has challenged us to focus on this enormous threat that increased weather volatility poses to farmers everyday,” said Johnson.
In June, the Pope issued the Encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home,” that both recognized climate change as a real global phenomenon and specifically challenged humans of all faiths to take actions to address it. “In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it,” notes the document.
Five Farmers Union state presidents – representing Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana – and NFU’s chief counsel were granted an audience with Pope Francis in March following a weeklong series of meetings in Milan that focused on the importance of family farming and food security. “We’re very proud that Farmers Union leaders from across the nation have played an active role in highlighting the challenges farmers face with climate change,” noted Johnson.
Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said he was quite pleased that the Encyclical focused on a number of issues of great importance to family farming. “The 178-page encyclical actually used farm-related terminology thirty times, underscoring that the Pope both understands and chose to highlight the challenges farmers face,” said Peterson.
Wisconsin Farmers Union President Darin Von Ruden noted, “the Vatican understands the various issues facing production agriculture, and also the fact that climate change will impact all of us, but unfortunately the developing world will feel its brunt the most.”
The Encyclical notes that, “climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”
“Clearly, climate change and its direct impact on food security – particularly in a time of rapid population expansion like we’re experiencing today – is a challenge for the whole world,” said Johnson. “And when the Pope is delivering the message, it’s nearly impossible to avoid hearing it.”