SfL: Delivering 21st Century Solutions to 21st Century Challenges

April 22, 2019

Last week marks the fifth anniversary of Solutions from the Land (SfL), a nonprofit organization that places farmers, ranchers and foresters at the forefront of resolving food system, energy, environmental and climate challenges and achieving global sustainable development goals. It is an important milestone that marks a number of accomplishments.

The roots of SfL began to grow 10 years ago, when consensus was reached among agricultural, forestry, conservation, academic and business leaders that the policies, programs and practices of the past for managing land were not adequate to meet the needs of tomorrow. This wide range of experts built a roadmap to achieve their vision, including the need for state, national and global initiatives and alliances.

These efforts offer farmers, ranchers, foresters and collaborating partners the opportunities to showcase examples of innovation and proactively advocate for policies, partnerships, investments and research. These actions will enable agricultural landscapes to deliver near-term, cost-effective, integrated solutions to global mega-challenges: food and energy security; sustainable economic development; and environmental improvement.

Our fifth-year anniversary as a formal entity brings with it a look back at the dozens of projects undertaken to meet the interrelated challenges of climate change, increasing demand for food and fiber, ecosystem stability and the need for economic growth, all using land-based solutions.

The longest standing SfL initiative is 25x’25, an alliance of stakeholders who have driven the vision of U.S. farms, ranches and forestlands providing 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs with renewable resources – biofuels, bioenergy, wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower – by 2025, while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, fiber and energy.

When 25x’25 was launched back in 2004, 5.75 percent of the total energy the United States consumed came from renewable forms of energy. In 2018, 11.52 percent of the total energy consumed in the nation came from renewable sources. The good news is that thanks to everyone’s tireless efforts, the nation has doubled the amount of energy coming from renewable sources, and we are half way to achieving the 25x’25 goal. The bad news is that we are only half way to achieving the 25x’25 goal. The 2018 EIA numbers drive home the need for all renewable energy champions to redouble efforts to protect and secure the right local, state and federal enabling policies and investments needed to close the energy gap with renewable energy produced domestically from sustainable feedstocks and renewable resources, mostly from our rural areas.

SfL opened up a second platform in 2015, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), and last year formed the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), a platform for inspiring, educating, and equipping agricultural partners to innovate effective local adaptations that sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience, and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainable development.

Among the state climate initiatives undertaken by SfL is the bringing together of agriculture and forestry leaders in Missouri, who looked into the future and examined what science is telling them is coming from changing climatic conditions and extreme weather events. Last October, the work group issued a report that presented opportunities to improve resiliency and ensure the economic viability of the state’s farming and forestry sectors for decades to come.

SfL facilitated a similar but more expansive initiative in North Carolina, where a farmer/forester-led, multi-stakeholder coalition explored the impacts of increasingly extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions on the agricultural and forestry sectors of North Carolina. This work group constructed an adaptive management plan to improve agriculture and forestry resiliency and further enhance the economic viability of these sectors for decades to come. SfL announced last week that a similar initiative is now underway in Florida.

SfL’s Large Landscapes Platform has successfully pursued a wide range of initiatives that engage agriculture and forestry partners to develop land-based solutions to global, regional, and landscape challenges. Early on, those projects included the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge, which offers tools and resources enabling farmers and their agri-business partners in the three-state region to demonstrate that they are respected stewards of the land, guardians of natural resources and champions of the rural cultural heritage in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Only last month, a diverse range of stakeholders from around Ohio validated SfL’s integrated land management model. More than two years of work resulted in an “Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land” action plan, which makes available to policy makers, planners and farm and food system advocates a variety of pathways and priority action steps needed to enable Ohio’s farmers, ranchers and woodland managers to further improve Ohioans’ quality of life through the multiple solutions that can be sustainably delivered from the land.

On the international level, SfL/NACSAA leaders are continuing their participation in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture and the ongoing global UNFCCC climate change negotiations. Those include the development and implementation of new strategies for adaptation and mitigation within the agriculture sector that will both help reduce emissions from the sector and build its resilience to the effects of climate change.

Looking back at SfL’s history, every endeavor utilizes multi-stakeholder partnerships that can, in turn, produce multipurpose, integrated solutions to local, regional and global challenges. This forward-looking approach calls for landscape-scale planning and implementation, while offering incentives for those who provide ecosystem services. The SfL model offers a win-win-win payoff, benefiting producers, the environment and society. Here’s to the next five years and beyond.

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Our Vision

An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.