Agricultural innovation as well as the capacity of American family farmers to mitigate and build resilience to climate change is important for legislators to consider as they tackle policies and legislation to curb the effects of climate change, according to comments offered up by farmer and industry groups.
in response to the request for information by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, many are offering their comments on the role of agriculture in an effort legislatively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In written comments, National Farmers Union (NFU) president Roger Johnson urged the panel to include recommendations in its pending report that support carbon sequestration on agricultural land. To do this, lawmakers must: strengthen the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s voluntary, incentives-based conservation programs; ease on-farm energy production and encourage biofuel development; establish new climate-friendly markets for commodities and farm goods, and fund necessary climate research. Congress can fund these programs by enacting a cap-and-trade or similar system.
“Agricultural soils hold immense potential to sequester the atmospheric carbon that’s rapidly accelerating climate change. Any successful solution to the climate crisis must strive to fully realize that potential, but the management practices necessary to such a solution are neither free nor simple," Johnson said. “Farmers need financial and technical assistance to implement climate-friendly practices on their operations, and they should be rewarded for the valuable public service they are providing. To ensure that farmers are appropriately compensated for carbon sequestration activities, we urge the establishment of a funding mechanism like a carbon credit trading system.”
The American Seed Trade Assn. (ASTA) submitted comments highlighting the necessary role of agricultural innovation in both combating and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
“The development and commercialization of innovative plant products is already playing a significant role in helping U.S. agriculture reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” ASTA president and chief executive officer Andy LaVigne said. “Further crop improvements using new precision breeding methods, including gene editing, can hasten these positive trends.”
For U.S. agriculture to maximize its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, a number of things are needed, including: (1) additional private- and public-sector investment in agricultural research, (2) rational government policies regarding evolving innovation in the agriculture space and (3) programs that incentivize farmers to adopt conservation practices.
ASTA said its members are committed to investing in research and development and delivering products to farmers that address constantly evolving and interlocking threats from changing weather, evolving diseases and insect pressures. An increasingly warming climate means an increase in disease intensity and the evolution of pests and diseases into areas where they formerly didn’t exist. While tackling these threats, plant breeders are also developing higher-yielding crop varieties – from vegetables to row crops. These new plant varieties enable farmers to grow more food on less land, enabling more sensitive lands that would otherwise be used for farming to stay in natural habitat or be available for wildflowers, animals and pollinators.
In addition, innovations in cover crops have been shown to contribute to soil health and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. ASTA members are working to enhance cover crop varieties, but the current cover crop market is insufficient to support large-scale research and development costs. A greater federal investment is needed to develop and test varieties that can maximize carbon sequestration and to identify optimal management strategies while providing economic incentives to encourage greater use by farmers.
“Plant breeding innovations like gene editing hold the key to addressing many of our collective global challenges – from health and nutrition to hunger and climate change,” LaVigne said. “The public and private sectors both have an important role to play. It’s critical that we continue moving forward, through robust investment in agriculture research and development, to drive forward the next generation of innovative solutions to meet the new and emerging challenges of tomorrow.”