There is a belief long held by those in the agriculture sector that in any discussion of dealing with climate change, policy makers must solicit the input of farmers, ranchers, foresters and members of the sector’s supply chain to maximize any efforts to address the growing threat. Thankfully, sharing that conviction is Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC).
In response to call issued last fall by Rep. Castor, the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) – a wide range of voices, focuses, and viewpoints from across the North American agricultural industry – submitted to the HSCCC today a series of recommendations to raise up the importance of the climate smart agriculture (CSA) framework and NACSAA’s Guiding Principles in policy development.
NACSAA is a farmer-led coalition facilitated and supported by Solutions from the Land and other partners that focuses on helping both producers and the value chain utilize climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of our food system.
Strategies range from minor adjustments in existing production to major changes in agricultural systems and best management practices, and are organized around the three CSA pillars:
- Pillar One: Sustainable intensification of production and ecosystem integrity
- Pillar Two: Adaptations that build resiliency
- Pillar Three: Systems that allow farmers to retain and sequester carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously improve profitability
The recommendations are a collaborative effort by NACSAA’s members, calling 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, to environmental protection and climate mitigation.
Led by NACSAA’s Enabling Policies team, chaired by Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser, the recommendations represent a response to two questions from the HSCCC:
- What policies should Congress adopt to reduce carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions and maximize carbon storage in agriculture?
- What policies should Congress adopt to help farmers, ranchers, and natural resource
managers adapt to the impacts of climate change?
The priority areas of policy proposed by NASCAA and targeted by the recommendations are as follows:
- Manage the Water Cycle – Acknowledge and prioritize through funding, infrastructure and practices the extreme variations in the hydrologic cycle marked by drought, evapotranspiration, increased and more intense precipitation events, and increasing degradation of soil and water resources.
- Financial assistance and incentives – Promote and assist voluntary, locally led, incentive-based conservation efforts.
- Technical Assistance – Rebuild the capacity (both resources and staffing) of NRCS, state conservation agencies and local conservation districts to provide much needed technical assistance in writing and implementing Climate Smart Agriculture plans.
- Research – Support and encourage system-level, integrated science research on climate risks; adaptation innovations; and the economic value and effectiveness of CSA production practices.
- Investments in Infrastructure – Catalog and facilitate priority repairs and upgrades to vital production, inland waterways, and wireless broadband connectivity infrastructure.
- Risk Management – Adjust federal crop insurance programs to incentivize and expedite adoption of CSA practices to mitigate uncertainty and risks.
- Decision-making and Capacity Building – Develop farmer-informed, accessible, pragmatic, and affordable decision-making approaches and tools that connect land managers with data, knowledge and resources.
- Carbon Pricing Mechanisms – Support a carbon pricing mechanism that also provides payments to farmers for carbon fixation in their soil.
- Payments for Ecosystem Services – Support the development of quantified ecosystem benefits and a voluntary, market-based, private-sector funding mechanism/incentive for ecosystem services.
- Clean Energy – Pursue the reduction of carbon through market adjustment and production diversification opportunities to expand bio-based fuels for transportation and electricity production.
The Alliance’s submission was constructed from input gathered from NACSAA’s members including agriculture, food production, equipment manufacturing, life science and conservation organizations. In developing these suggestions for the Select Committee, NACSAA offers a collective body of work which – though not every partner may endorse every item on the list – presents a composite consensus of important climate change enabling policies evolving from North American agricultural stakeholders. Together, they reinforce comments and recommendations offered by individual NACSAA members and stakeholder partners in support of climate innovation and sustainable production in the United States.
SfL commends NACSAA for helping keep U.S. agriculture at the forefront of resolving food system, energy, environmental and climate challenges and achieving global sustainable development goals; as well as for advancing policy and program recommendations that will enable agricultural economic sustainability and benefit farmers, ranchers and foresters as well as the planet.