National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Report Details Suggested Policy Changes to Meet Climate Change Challenges
American agriculture is not the major source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate disruption, but if agricultural production is done well, it can be a major part of the many needed solutions to climate change. This is a major finding of a newly-released position paper from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge is a national research and policy report that provides recommendations to assist farmers in adopting climate-smart practices and production systems. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), along with other members of the NSAC alliance, helped research and report on the findings.
Climate disruption has been impacting American agriculture in recent years, and associated extreme weather events are likely to continue. This report provides the latest update on research on the science of climate change and agriculture along with recommendations to help farmers and ranchers build more resilient systems of production for the future.
“This paper updates the latest social, economic and agricultural research regarding climate change and sustainable agriculture,” said Jeff Schahczenski, agricultural and natural resource economist with NCAT and one of the paper’s three lead authors. “It provides policy and practice recommendations to Congress that will help farmers and ranchers adopt climate-smart practices.”
The report finds that while progress has been made on increasing overall soil carbon, in general the U.S. agricultural production sector has increased its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate impact over the past few decades. Increasing soil carbon has positive effects on soil quality and could result in increased productivity, agricultural resilience, and yield stability, especially on carbon-depleted soils. In addition, key issues that were explored include the impact of confined animal feed operations, known as 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.
The report also examines the impact of public policies such as federally subsidized crop insurance on addressing climate disruption. “Crop insurance, while providing an important safety net to parts of American agriculture, does not provide incentives to support the many farmers and ranchers in a way that supports the whole farm or ranch,” said Schahczenski.
In Agriculture and Climate Change, the authors take 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 NSAC hopes policymakers will utilize as they continue to develop and debate policies and programs to address the climate crisis. These findings will be used to inform recommendations to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which undertook its first hearing on climate change and agriculture just this fall.
The full report can be viewed at https://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/NSAC-Climate-Change-Policy-Position_paper-112019_WEB.pdf.