Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Agriculture's Role in Curbing Climate Change

Sunset over vineyardPressure on our farmland to produce ever increasing amounts of food, fuel and fiber is intensifying, and the unpredictability of climate change adds a new threat. Erratic changes in temperature and rainfall will likely result in the spread of plant damaging insects, weeds and diseases while increasing the severity of soil erosion, runoff and flooding.

But while agriculture has much to lose from the effects of global warming, it also has much to gain from being part of the solution to fighting it.

Opportunity for Agriculture

U.S. agriculture can help reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by adopting new practices and technologies and by producing low-carbon renewable energy. Studies indicate that changes in agriculture practices, paired with the foresting of marginal agricultural lands, could offset up to one fifth of current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

However agricultural sequestration currently offsets less than one percent of total U.S. emissions. In the absence of a national carbon program coupled with policies that encourage and reward agricultural participants, we are missing a significant opportunity to reduce the effects of climate change through agriculture.

Drawing the Connections between Farmland and the Environment

We will encourage smart growth decisions that protect farmland, which can play a critical role in decreasing the threats of climate change. Building off urban growth legislation in California we will continue to advocate for the farmland and reduced vehicle travel in order to protect wildlife habitat and improve the environment.

AFT's Climate Change Campaign

As stewards of over half the land and water resources in America, farmers and ranchers must be involved in the development of climate change solutions. Many of the practices undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural lands will also provide additional public benefits, such as clean water, wildlife habitat, and reduced soil erosion.

American Farmland Trust is building on our expertise in conservation and farmland protection to involve agriculture in the development of effective climate change policy solutions and their implementation. We will:

Farmers and ranchers want to be good stewards, but they must also make a profit to remain on the land. When farmers are compensated for the environmental benefits they produce, such as cleaner water and carbon sequestration, they're more encouraged to get involved in climate change solutions. AFT will work to couple these market incentives with conservation funding at the state and national level to create a healthier environment and support a viable farming industry.