Farmers and ranchers can help in the climate crisis
As published in The Hill on April 19, 2021.
Farmers and ranchers are up against unparalleled obstacles that threaten their livelihoods and the global food supply.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. The last seven years have been the Earth’s hottest years on record. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States experienced 22 extreme weather events and disasters in 2020, resulting in more than $95 billion in damages.
This year we have already witnessed an unprecedented winter storm in Texas that has impacted scores of farms and ranches in that state, killing livestock and crops, including the state’s citrus industry. Farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines of climate change, battling natural disasters year in and year out that batter their crops and livestock, land and their ability to survive economically.
We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Agriculture is part of the problem, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the GHGs.
Yet, there is hope. The very plants and animals that are the source of our food can play a role in reducing GHG emissions.
Plants take in carbon from the atmosphere, storing it safely in the soil, neutralizing the footprint of agriculture and, over time, offsetting the footprint of other sectors. Innovations in fertilizer application, livestock feed and nutrition, manure management and other areas can significantly reduce GHG.
But farmers and ranchers cannot do it alone. To fully and rapidly activate a coordinated approach to tackling climate change, we must have a response that equals the magnitude of the threat facing our planet.
The Biden administration has made the fight against climate change a national priority, starting with the establishment of the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.
Agriculture can be a meaningful partner in this effort. Efforts to reduce emissions from agriculture are happening in fields and labs around the world, but these efforts are fragmented and, in many cases, they are hyper-focused by geography or farm type. There has been no singular effort to coordinate this work — until now.
One year ago, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), where both of us serve as board members, and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA) created the Agriculture Climate Partnership, now called AgMission, that is mobilizing farmers, ranchers, scientists, industry and data providers to develop and implement climate-smart farming practices on scales previously unimagined.
There is no cookie-cutter solution that works for farmers and ranchers across the board. Every climate-smart practice must be customized by farm and be both economically and environmentally sustainable while reducing, if not offsetting GHGs. AgMission’s approach relies on the co-creation of customized, science-based and data-driven solutions that can be rapidly deployed, first in the U.S. and then around the world.
This partnership envisions a world where every farmer and rancher employs at least one climate-smart solution on every acre of farmland. AgMission’s goal is for agriculture to be net negative for GHG emissions.
U.S. public agricultural research remains critically underfunded, especially compared to foreign competitors like China who are investing millions more than the U.S. in this research each year.
Through AgMission, we can close the gap in funding for agriculture-climate research and accelerate the development and adoption of new and proven on-farm climate solutions.
Farmers and ranchers need the support and collaboration of us all to meet the challenge of supplying a growing global food demand while protecting the environment. This is an enormous undertaking, and we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security, nor can we assume that food will always be there. Climate change is a threat to food security worldwide.
There can be no urban-rural, red state-blue state divide on this issue. We all eat. We all breathe. We are all stakeholders in this issue. The future is now. Together, we can realize the full potential of agriculture in the fight against climate change.
More about the authors
Dan Glickman is a former secretary of Agriculture (1995-2001), former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, (1977-1995), and a Board member of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research.
Bob Stallman, is a rice and cattle producer from Columbus, Texas, past president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and a Board member of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research.