NACSAA: Farmers must be at center of climate discussions

Comments made in response to Senate Democrats' request on policy recommendations for climate crisis.

June 22, 2020

3 Min Read
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The guiding principle that farmers must be at the center of all climate discussions and decision-making followed closely behind the tenet that there is no "silver bullet" to enhance the agriculture industry's resilience and potential to mitigate climate change, according to a detailed set of policy and program recommendations the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) made to Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

The Senate Agriculture Committee also plans to hold a hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday on The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020, a bill introduced by committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) to help monetize the carbon market to benefit farmers.

The NACSAA submission, which was made in response to the committee's request for input from agricultural and rural leaders, represents a collaborative effort by NACSAA's partners to call attention to the profound and critical role agriculture plays in bridging gaps in policy arenas -- from food security and nutrition to energy and national security to rural development and job creation and to environmental protection and climate mitigation.

The alliance presented its perspective in testimony late last year to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC) from steering committee chairman Fred Yoder, an Ohio corn, soybean and wheat grower who is a past president of the National Corn Growers Assn. The alliance followed that testimony with a tranche of enabling policy suggestions submitted to the House panel in March.

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Yoder noted the alliance's long history of global engagement with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's landmark agricultural program, the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

In response to a question from the Senate Democrats' special committee regarding the challenges America's farmers, ranchers and forestland owners face from weather extremes, NACSAA cited the "Fourth National Climate Assessment Report, Volume II." The report details the numerous challenges climate change poses to sustaining and enhancing crop productivity, livestock health, ecosystem integrity and the economic vitality of rural communities. Those include declining food and forage production in regions experiencing increased frequency and duration of drought and the expanding degradation of irreplaceable soil and water resources as extreme precipitation events increase across agricultural landscapes, among other challenges.

Yoder explained that in the face of multiple climate-related disasters, NACSAA's farmer-led, continent-wide effort focuses its efforts on helping both producers and the value chain utilize climate-smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of North America's food system. The use of the three-pillar CSA framework is foundational to any agricultural climate strategy, the alliance asserts. The first pillar of CSA acknowledges that farmers must lead by focusing on the economic as well as environmental sustainability of farming operations as they respond to the changing climate.

Related:Ag groups offer ways to address climate change

In response to other questions, the NACSAA submission noted that because farmers and ranchers are among those most directly affected by climate change, they are uniquely positioned to help deliver solutions. Policy-makers can encourage win-win scenarios in which agriculture can both adapt to and present a solution for climate change: the second and third CSA pillars.

A question from the committee about existing policy tools that may help improve resilience prompted NACSAA to reiterate its House panel recommendation that Congress expand financial assistance to promote and assist voluntary, locally led, incentive-based conservation efforts.

The NACSAA submission goes on to offer detailed responses and recommendations to committee questions about "promising opportunities" for land managers to benefit from climate action conservation practices and other tools currently in use; tools and strategies that have the most potential for improving resiliency and sequestering carbon; key barriers to the adoption of those practices, and what technical assistance is best suited for both producers and rural communities.

NACSAA closed by noting that with the assistance of Congress, "U.S. agriculture can be at the forefront of resolving food system, energy, environmental and climate challenges and achieving global sustainable development goals."

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