With much of the climate debate happening in Washington D.C., the discussion can feel urban-centric at times. While it is certainly important to focus on how certain policies will impact cities and densely populated areas, rural America is often forgotten. Rightfully seeing this as a problem, members in Congress have begun to step up and offer ideas to lower emissions and protect the interests of the heartland. One member who has been leading the charge is Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
Newhouse, who chairs the Congressional Western Caucus is a farmer himself, growing hops, grapes, and tree fruits on his 600-acre farm. Congressman Newhouse recently joined John Hart on Right Voices.
In a Congress where only 5% of members are farmers or ranchers, Newhouse has taken it upon himself to advocate for those that he calls “our first conservationists,” as he explains:
“What I’m doing as my public service is working in Congress and I like to think that I bring the values that I have—growing up on a farm, growing up in a rural area—to Washington DC. Part of that—anyone who is listening with agricultural experience knows this—farmers truly are our first conservationists. We understand the importance of protecting our water, our land, our air, more than anybody because we depend on the natural resources that we’ve been provided to produce the food and fiber that we need in this country and to earn a living.”
He then added that farmers should be viewed as an asset in addressing climate change.
“I want to make sure that farmers get credit for that and that we are seen as part of the solution, instead of being pointed at as one of the problems that we need to fix because I think we can truly point to our record and the things that we do as being beneficial for the environment.”
As the leader of the Western Caucus, which includes members of not only western states but states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, Rep. Newhouse has been intentional in giving rural America a platform to be heard.
“What we want to do is bring the voices of the local people in those communities, elevate them, amplify them in Washington D.C. in order to allow my colleagues, the other 534 members of the House and Senate to be able to make better decisions and understand the impacts of the decisions we make in Washington D.C.”
One issue that has hit particularly close to home is the rising cost of energy. With inflation at 8.2%, consumers can expect to pay up to 28% more for home heating this winter. The Biden administration’s energy policy, which has made it harder to produce domestically, has been a major contributor to price increases and has put America in a “precarious position,” according to Rep. Newhouse.
While these policies have been enacted largely in the name of addressing climate change, Newhouse believes that lowering emissions doesn’t have to hurt our economy. Instead, it should start at home and be led by American industry.
“The thing that people need to understand too is the ability of American industry to do things cleaner. [It is] more environmentally safe to produce energy and minerals here than other countries in the world. We are head and shoulders above other countries when it comes to that. Putting roadblocks in front of the process pushes these industries to other countries where they don’t do it as well and in effect is more damaging to our planet. So, it’s kind of an interesting conundrum that we find ourselves in—we can do it cleaner here but we don’t.”
Should the GOP come out of November’s elections with control of the House, there are several climate policies that Rep. Newhouse would love to focus on including permitting reform and an “all of the above” energy strategy that allows the market to pick winners and losers. Through pragmatic approaches such as these, Rep. Newhouse is showing that climate solutions can and should benefit rural America.