Across the country, work groups composed of agricultural and forestry thought leaders and value chain partners are coming together to review the impacts that extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions are having and are expected to have on agriculture and forestry sectors in the future. Together, these groups will determine the need for – and benefits of – developing agricultural and forestry adaptive management strategies for their states.
Since the members of the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture (FL CSA) Work Group were named four months ago, they have been an example of exceptional leadership in this endeavor.
The influence that the work group can convey is demonstrated by the agenda for a forum that its members are hosting in Gainesville this coming Monday – Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: What the Future Holds for Florida. The work group is gathering some of the state’s leading agricultural and forestry players, who are eager to hear input from the forum’s featured panels of top policy makers, ag researchers, state and federal officials. Kicking off the range of influential speakers will be Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
The sway of the work group’s influence can also be measured by the influential Tampa Bay Times publishing late last week an op-ed – “Farming and Ranching to Reduce a Carbon Footprint” – written by the work group’s co-chairs, Lynetta Usher Griner, who co-owns and operates Usher Land and Timber, based in Chiefland; and Jim Strickland, the owner of Strickland Ranch and managing partner of Big Red Cattle Company and Blackbeard’s Ranch in Manatee County. Joining Griner and Strickland in authoring the op-ed was Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida and head of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
The op-ed underscores the role that Florida’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners can play in what is becoming what the authors call “a movement to grow a crop of ideas on how to get ahead of higher temperatures, stronger hurricanes and rising sea levels that put salt in the soil.”
The work group is taking on a massive challenge – the development of a plan to adapt, improve the resilience of, and assure maximum production from the Sunshine State’s 26 million acres of agricultural and forestry lands in the face of changing climate conditions.
The op-ed highlights the resolve that the state’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have developed to provide solutions to face the threat of a changing climate, which is threating not only the livelihoods of those who work the land, but the well-being of all Florida residents.
The authors point out that much of the technology needed for a better farm of the future exists now. Some Florida farmers, foresters and ranchers already demonstrate climate-friendly practices that can be more affordably adopted by others if public policy makers provide growers incentives as part of a statewide or even society-wide climate strategy.
Practices and equipment that are already being utilized by a growing number of Florida growers include no-till farming that keeps carbon in the soil instead of releasing it into the air; soil sensors that tells farmers when to shut off water pumps, as well as the emissions from the fuel that runs them; and more food grown domestically to reduce the emitted carbon that comes with getting food and timber products from outside the state.
Solutions from the Land applauds the agricultural, forestry, business, academic, government and conservation leaders that make up the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group. It commends them for the tools and practices they are developing to meet the huge challenge of a changing climate. These leaders recognize that in public debates, growers are too often painted as contributors to climate change. The Work Group members are working to alter that conversation, emphasizing the fact that farmers, ranchers and foresters are becoming a large part of the solution.