Farmers Combat Climate Change

Our climate is changing. Few will feel the effects more directly than family farmers, ranchers and landowners. But farmland is key to reducing greenhouse gases.

Extreme weather will cause more frequent droughts and flooding, alter growing seasons, increase damaging pests and weeds. At a time when the global population is increasing, climate change threatens the world’s ability to grow food in a productive and environmentally sustainable way.

Farmers and ranchers are critical in the fight against climate change.

Conserving farmland by the acre and soil by the inch is a powerful strategy for reducing greenhouse gases and improving productivity. Farmers and ranchers can help reverse climate change by drawing down carbon from the air through practices that sequester carbon in the soil.

With pioneering research, innovative tools, and aggressive advocacy, AFT is helping farmers, ranchers, and landowners play a unique role in reducing the growing threat of climate change while increasing food production and improving soil health.

AFT’s initiative has three strategies.

1) Protect Farmland and Promote Smart Growth to Significantly Reduce Emissions

Research documents that low-density development generates 50-70 times more emissions than compact development or farmland and AFT studies in both New York and California show that protecting farmland and limiting sprawling development can help curb one of the largest sources of carbon emissions: transportation. In New York, if the annual loss of farmland were reduced by 80 percent, that could reduce emissions equal to removing one million cars from the road. Yet, we continue to pave over our productive farmland at rate of more than 40 acres every hour.

AFT's new Farms Under Threat initiative is projecting the impacts of climate change and development on our best farmland and will help partners protect this critical land. As the U.S. expands renewable energy development to address climate change, this competition for land will only increase. But new solar panels should not be sited on our most productive farmland. Smart renewable siting can guide development onto land where it has the least impact on agriculture and the environment.

Within this strategy, AFT is:

  • Expanding research on impacts of farmland protection on GHG to new states
  • Mapping our best agricultural lands and projecting the impacts of climate change
  • Promoting smart solar siting
  • Working with partners to ensure farmland protection and smart growth are key pillars of future growth and climate plans

2) Improve Soil Health to Help Reverse Climate Change & Improve Productivity

Farmers and ranchers manage more than one billion acres of land in America—land that can act as a natural carbon “sink” by absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soil. 

Carbon farming—also called climate-smart agriculture, regenerative farming or conservation cropping
systems—improves soil health, sequesters carbon, and increases resiliency. Healthy
soils absorb more water during heavy rains, which reduces runoff, and offer better
resilience during periods of drought because the land holds more water. Healthy soil also can help farmers increase yields and be more productive.

Unfortunately, the nation’s soil has degraded over time. While there are a growing number of farmers and ranchers taking action to rebuild their soil, key barriers hinder more widespread adoption.

To overcome these barriers, AFT is:

3) Build Support Among the Farm Community and Advance Policies

Agriculture, a land and weather-based industry, will be affected by changes in climate in crucial ways.  Large-scale transformation will occur only when farmers, ranchers and landowners see it in their economic interests to adopt conservation practices. The recent focus on improving soil health and improving productivity has created an opportunity. We need policies that reward regenerating soil health.

Within this strategy, AFT is:

  • Communicating the successes of farmers already using resilient practices
  • Building support for policies that promote investments in soil health

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