A number of agriculture groups at this fall’s UN Climate Summit signed on to a new, three-year North American initiative that will give farmers the opportunity to work with industry, academic, government and non-governmental partners to mitigate the risks of changing climate conditions.
“With increasing public focus turning to the climate, farmers must take a seat at the table to ensure our interests and concerns on this topic are accurately represented,” says Paul Taylor, a farmer from Esmond, Ill., and National Corn Growers Association board member. “American corn farmers have a dynamic story of constant improvement to share. We have a long history of finding innovative ways to meet ever-evolving challenges, and activities such as this help us engage in a productive dialogue about this issue.”
To represent North American interests, a separate North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative is led by A. G. Kawamura, a former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and a co-chairman of Solutions from the Land.
Kawamura says the North American initiative will offer a platform to facilitate discussion among stakeholders about new adaptation practices, tools and production systems; and review the latest information on what science is saying about changing climatic conditions and their impact on U.S. agriculture and forestry.
"We expect this initiative…will produce recommendations for steps that must be taken to reduce risk and enhance the resilience of ag and forestry operations," Kawamura says. "This is a resource that will offer support to states and regions, and establish crop-specific agricultural and forestry leadership teams that will develop adaptation strategies."
Kawamura says a number of key farm, commodity and conservation groups have signed on to play a leadership role in the initiative, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, NCGA, National Farmers Union, Western Growers Association, National FFA Foundation, American Farmland Trust, United Soybean Board, Ontario Farmers Federation and Soil and Water Conservation Society.
Kawamura cites the findings earlier this year of the National Climate Assessment, a report from more than 300 experts from multiple federal agencies that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States now and in the future. It shows climate disruptions to U.S. agricultural production have increased in the past 40 years and are projected to increase over the next 25 years.
By mid-century and beyond, these impacts will be increasingly negative on most crops and livestock, the assessment shows.
“The assessment shows that producers have many available strategies for adapting to the average temperature and precipitation changes that are projected for the next 25 years,” Kawamura says. “The North American Smart Agriculture Initiative can help promote these strategies, including continued technological advancements, expansion of irrigated acreage, regional shifts in crop acreage and crop species, adjustments in inputs and outputs, and changes in livestock management practices.”
Kawamura says Solutions from the Land will support forums, roundtables and summits where agricultural, forestry and conservation leaders and value chain partners can collaborate and engage in joint problem solving and build a broader coalition in addressing adaptation challenges.
The group will also collaborate closely with government-sponsored initiatives, such as the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agriculture Project (CSCAP), a USDA-funded effort to investigate the complex carbon, nitrogen and water cycles in managing corn-based cropping systems to increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing agriculture's environmental footprint under extreme and variable long-term weather conditions.
ASA president Ray Gaesser notes, “It’s important that those of us in the agriculture industry come together to lead discussion and work toward ensuring our resources are used effectively, efficiently and sustainably.”
Farm Bureau believes that there are tools and solutions that will make combating inclement weather less challenging without hindering productivity or harming the U.S. economy.
"This collaborative effort will insure that farmers and livestock producers will do what needs to be done to readily meet the food demands of a global population expected to exceed 9 billion people in 2050." says AFBF president Bob Stallman.
At the UN Climate Summit, the Obama Administration announced the U.S.’s participation in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture.
Participating countries and organizations have committed to incorporating climate-smart approaches to agriculture to improve food security and nutrition. The three aspirational outcomes are: sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and income; greater resilience of food systems and farming livelihoods and reduction and/or removal of greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture (including the relationship between agriculture and ecosystems), wherever possible.
"Farmers, ranchers and other producers in the U.S. and around the world are feeling the impact of climate change now," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "They are experiencing production challenges from extended droughts, more severe flooding, stronger storms, and new pests and diseases. The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture offers the opportunity to collaboratively share knowledge, make investments and develop policies that will empower all producers to adapt to climate change and to mitigate its consequences. Long term global food security depends on us acting together now."
One farmer offers his reaction
Iowa farmer Gaesser doesn’t need a federal report to tell him the climate is changing. Climate changes already affect how, when, and what he plants, works his fields, buys machinery, and plans for the future. More extreme weather, including more very heavy precipitation events, have pushed Gaesser to adapt in creative ways. “You wonder how you’re going to take care of the crop the way it should be taken care of,” says Gaesser.
See a video with Gaesser's comments below.