I hope you have come to love American Farmland Trust’s iconic “No Farms No Food” bumper sticker as much as I do. But recently, I find myself adding “No Future” to the message. And this addition seems to resonate with everyone who hears it.
“No Farms. No Food. No Future” may be a more accurate tagline for today’s times because it gets to the point that without healthy farms, we don’t have a chance at a healthy future. That’s a message I brought to the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, California, in September.
The international summit brought together more than 4,000 participants—mostly business and political leaders—to multiple coordinated events intended to raise awareness and put us on a path toward offsetting the worst impacts of global warming.
Agricultural issues have seldom been front and center at past climate summits. But the events in California represented a step in the right direction. I was proud to play a role by talking about what “farming done right” can do for our planet. Farms and ranches have a major role to play combating climate change. Simply put, we cannot hope to lower atmospheric carbon to the level needed unless we pursue two interconnected strategies: retaining enough farmland and then managing it well.
In the years ahead, we will need farms not just to grow food, but to help heal the Earth—by rebuilding soil and sequestering atmospheric carbon.
Clearly, the amount of carbon we can capture in the soil lessens with each acre of farmland we lose. Yet that’s only part of the problem. Each acre of farmland we lose also means that there is more pressure to farm the remaining land intensely. So it becomes that much harder to manage the remaining farmland in ways that could otherwise maximize climate benefits. It’s a sword that cuts both ways.
In the United States, we are losing 1.5 million acres of farmland every year to development. And climate change itself will cause us to lose even more—as shifts in precipitation and sea-level rises will make some farmland unsuitable for farming. That elevates the need to save every acre of farmland and ranchland we can.
AFT launched our “Farmers Combat Climate Change” initiative to play the dual role of increasing the adoption of climate-smart farming practices while making the case for farmland protection as both an effective and necessary way to counter climate change.
Sometimes the dire threat of climate change can make us feel so hopeless that we don’t know what to think or do. But I have hope—and I’m ready to act. That’s because—to paraphrase AFT’s augmented tagline—farms are our future. With your support and AFT’s continued work, farms can restore our planet.