The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says that the writing is on the wall: Climate crisis is no longer on the horizon, it is here. From record-breaking floods across the Midwest to intense land-falling hurricanes on our coasts to historic droughts in California, farmers across the U.S. have been on the front lines of extreme weather. The NSAC has been helping farmers adopt climate-smart practices for decades, and the organization recently released a report of policy and practice recommendations based on the latest climate science: Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge.
“Agriculture can help lead the way in reversing the cataclysmic disruptions of climate change, but only if we understand how innovative agricultural systems can sequester greenhouse gases (GHG) to create resilience and productivity,” said Dr. Mark Schonbeck, Research Associate with the Organic Farming Research Foundation and one of the paper’s principal authors.
The NSAC paper argues that while progress has been made on increasing overall soil carbon (which has positive effects on soil quality and could result in increased productivity, agricultural resilience, and yield stability, especially on carbon-depleted soils), overall the U.S. agricultural production sector has increased its GHG emissions and climate impact over the past few decades. The NSAC paper blames this largely on the increasing use of liquid manure storage lagoons found on concentrated animal feeding operation, which emit more methane than dry-stacked or composted manure.
The paper, developed by NSAC’s Subcommittee on Climate Change, explores both the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, as well as the contribution of U.S. agriculture to global climate change mitigation. Key issues analyzed include: the impact of CAFOs on climate and environment; the relationship between the climate crisis and overproduction; how the structure of the federal crop insurance system contributes to overproduction and by extension climate change; and impactful sustainable production practices, including perennial cropping systems, resource-conserving crop rotations, and management intensive grazing.
In Agriculture and Climate Change, the authors said they took a comprehensive look at the latest in agricultural and climate science and summarize their analysis in 14 key research findings. Based on these findings, the paper puts forward nearly 30 detailed public policy recommendations, which the NSAC hopes policymakers will utilize as they continue to develop and debate policies and programs to address the climate crisis.
In conjunction with the release of this paper, NSAC has also published eight policy principles on agriculture and climate change, which can be found here.