That 2020 was a phenomenally challenging year could only be lost on the most blindingly optimistic of observers. In very few of our lifetimes have people across the world experienced and navigated through what have been this year massive, co-joined health, economic and environmental challenges of truly biblical proportions.
However, even within this bleak deluge of adversity, hope is apparent from the efforts that farmers, ranchers and foresters are making to meet these challenges head on. As a result, there is an awakening across the globe to the critical role that agriculture plays, not just in producing food, but in the wider range of goods and services that sustainable farming, ranching and foresting operations provide.
Solutions from the Land’s (SfL) mission is to place farmers at the forefront in addressing global challenges. Looking back over the past year, even in the face of incredible adversity, SfL’s volunteer leaders have done just that.
On the international level, SfL contributed to global climate negotiators three new, farmer-developed submissions into the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), the workstream global negotiators adopted in 2017 to ensure that agricultural development produces both increased food security in the face of climate change and a reduction in emissions. Working in partnership with the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), a wide range of voices, focuses and viewpoints from across the continent’s agricultural industry, SfL submitted in April 35 recommendations on improved livestock management systems and another 28 proposals addressed socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change.
On the latter topic, SfL board member Lois Wright Morton advised fellow delegates from around the world participating in a virtual, UN-sponsored workshop earlier this month not to take a singular approach when considering the socioeconomic and food-security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector. While calling for a multi-faceted approach to achieve climate and other sustainable development goals, Morton, who was the only farmer presenting in the KJWA event, told other delegates to do more than tell farmers how to farm, but to “listen to them and find out what they need.”
On the domestic policy scene, SfL facilitated a consensus agreement among NACSAA members on a set of comprehensive, ag-related climate change policy recommendations submitted to Congress, where lawmakers are demonstrating a renewed readiness to take on the growing climate threats. The recommendations focused on helping both producers and the value chain utilize climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of our food system.
The reports later issued by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC) and the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, respectively, verify the practical and pragmatic solutions that farmers and ranchers can provide to address climate change. However, both measures fall short in some areas, including water and its availability for agricultural operations. SfL will continue working with lawmakers in the new Congress next year to improve the measures, with the goal of helping build bipartisan support for policies and programs that will benefit agriculture and the nation over the years ahead.
Over 2020, SfL has sponsored and enabled state-level, producer-led climate smart agriculture platforms in Iowa, Florida and Ohio. In each of those states, highly respected and well networked agricultural and forestry thought leaders and value chain partners are exploring and assessing the impacts that extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions are having – and are expected to have – on their respective agricultural sectors.
SfL also demonstrated examples of innovation and technology being used by farmers and ranchers today to deliver high value solutions. Now available on YouTube is a 20-minute video presentation in which SfL farmer-leaders offer a vision of solutions that farming operations can deliver to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by UN member nations. The 17 SDGs represent a blueprint to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. The goals seek to curb climate change, eliminate hunger, restore water quality, and promote inexpensive, clean energy, among other far-reaching objectives.
Going forward, SfL will be proactively demonstrating the emerging renaissance that is occurring in agricultural production and conservation systems. We will be forcefully talking about “solutions” that ag can provide with the right enabling policies and programs. We will carry the message through our work domestically with the new Biden administration and the nation’s governors, and globally in the UN climate convention, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and at the Food Systems Summit set for next fall. We invite all who recognize the unlimited opportunities before us to join in advancing agricultural solutions to challenges here and abroad. Good riddance 2020 and hello 2021. Let’s get to work!