NACSAA in Action
Multiple State Efforts Highlighted by Climate Smart Ag Forum in Florida
A forum emphasizing the climate challenges Florida’s farms, ranches and forests are experiencing and showcasing the steps that the state’s producers are taking to become climate smart drew some of the state’s leading producers together in Gainesville this week.
A forum – Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: What the Future Holds for Florida – highlighted the climate challenges now pressing Florida’s farms, ranches, and forests, as well as steps producers and others are taking in response to the growing threat.
The event, which was preceded by a morning tour of area agricultural and timber operations that are facing the challenges of a changing climate, was co-sponsored by Solutions from the Land (SfL) and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
Accompanying the tour was Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, who later shared with the afternoon forum audience the ramifications of a changing climate as predicted by scientists.
“None of us have all of the answers,” Castor told the forum “It is important for all of us to work together.”
Castor said a report issued last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the role of working lands in both contributing to and mitigating changing climate conditions, and reinforces the need for all parties to collaborate.
Castor, who said the steps to be considered by her committee “cannot be theoretical,” reported that “all members” of her panel are engaged in the process, noting that recommendations on legislation dealing with the climate crisis are expected from both Democrats and Republicans on the panel by next spring.
A bipartisan approach to legislation is crucial because lawmakers must “think about a paradigm shift” to give growers the tools needed to deal with the changing climate, she said, indicating the possibility of legislation authorizing a financial incentive for agriculture and forestry operators to build carbon stores in their soils and woodlands.
Created this year, Castor’s committee has been charged with investigating and developing recommendations on policies, strategies and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.
Opening the forum was 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.
Griner and Strickland are the co-chairs of the Florida Climate-Smart Agriculture Work Group, a panel of agricultural and forestry leaders who, along with critical value chain partners, are calling for deeper exploration of farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners as suppliers of environmental protection, as well as of food and fiber.
The work group has declared its ambitions to craft a plan for how the state’s 26 million acres of agricultural lands can adapt to changing conditions and produce more clean water and air and other societal benefits.
Others speaking included Jack Payne, senior vice president for the University of Florida’s Agriculture and Natural Resources,at the IFAS; Senthold Asseng, director of the Florida Climate Institute; and Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Science Officer with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
A panel of Florida producers shared experiences that varied from unprecedented rainfalls over the past 6-8 years to in the southwest portion of the state to a 12-inch rainfall deficit being experienced in the state’s Panhandle. A South Florida grower said the winter season has virtually disappeared in his part of the state, while a North Florida grower said his operation seems to be challenged annually with “a new bug or a new disease.”
NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder closed the forum, telling his audience that Florida “is a powerhouse for agriculture… with diverse crops and systems,” and that the state’s “Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group is a national pioneer for agricultural solutions.”
He warned producers that while SfL and the state agencies heard from during the forum “hope to give you everything you need to help you” to prosper under a changing climate, they “have a significant job ahead.”
Yoder said that agriculture must feed some 9.9 billion people by 2050 – 2.2 billion more than the current global population. He said agriculture must double production over the next several decades while growing on less land than is now in use.
To do that, “we all have to have each other’s backs,” Yoder said. “Meeting the challenge will require a systems approach, not [single-interest] silos.”
He argued that if agriculture does not lead the discussion with its own proposals for policy being developed on the world stage to address the changing climate, other interests will try to impose their own perspective on the debate and divert funding toward services that may provide less protection against climate change than would investments in climate-smart agriculture.
Meanwhile, in another state, the Ohio Smart Agriculture (OSA: SfL) design team met via teleconference in recent weeks to develop a plan to recruit new leaders to better balance and energize the project’s steering committee.
Design team members agreed to solicit candidate names from organizations representing specific communities that are key to the success of the initiative. These include commodity, identity preserved, limited resource, immigrant and next generation producers, along with economic development and health communities. The goal is to recruit a fresh group of leaders in time for the next steering committee meeting, which is tentatively set for the week of Sept. 16th.
Elsewhere, the next meeting of the Iowa Smart Agriculture (ISA) work group is set for Aug. 29 at USDA’s National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment: USDA ARS on the campus of Iowa State University, in Ames.
The meeting will include presentations from members of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub, followed by a dialogue with ISA’s producer members on the climate-related challenges they are experiencing and steps they can take to adapt, improve sustainability and deliver high value ecosystem services.
IPCC Land Report Draws Optimistic Response from NACSAA Leaders
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued last week that acknowledges the role of the land and food sectors in both contributing to and mitigating climate change drew a generally optimistic response from NACSAA leadership.
The IPCC, the world body for assessing the state of scientific knowledge related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options, saw the Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) approved by the world’s governments Aug. 7 in Geneva, Switzerland.
It will be a key scientific input into forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14) in New Delhi, India, in September, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile, in December.
NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder said it was an important scientific document for policy makers “that confirms what we know to be true: sustainably managed farms, ranches and forests, coupled with food system reforms, are critically important pathways for combating climate change and achieving other sustainable development goals.”
He said the report confirms the vision that NACSAA and its parent organization, Solutions from the Land (SfL), have been advancing for years: working lands can offer the keys to a more sustainable existence.
“The IPCC Land report released today recognizes the near-term solutions that well managed farms, ranches and forests can deliver at scale to combat climate change,” said Yoder, an Ohio grain farmer who is also an SfL Co-Chair. “We look forward to working with our partners across the globe in advancing adaptation and mitigation strategies that address climate, food system and biodiversity goals.”
A formal statement issued by SfL notes that with technology, innovation and hard work, America’s farms can sequester carbon, capture methane emissions and produce renewable natural gas, as well as grow feedstocks used to produce low carbon liquid transportation fuels, and harness the sun to produce zero carbon wind and solar energy.
Furthermore, livestock producers using sustainable grazing practices can improve food security by producing much needed animal protein, often on land unsuitable for other uses.
The report makes clear that there are no “silver bullet” resolutions to the challenges posed by a changing climate. While there may be some tradeoffs, SfL notes that if changes are made correctly, U.S. lands can be a major solution platform for producing food, feed, fiber, energy and a host of ecosystem services.
“Farmers need to be able to focus on their capacity to feed the world. Society needs to focus on the will to feed everyone,” said NACSAA steering committee member AG Kawamura, who is also an SfL Co-Chair. “Shifting from food to feed to fuel will let us utilize what might otherwise be ‘waste’ when production efforts fall short. Our diversity is the toolkit that maintains the capacity needed to meet our production and sustainability goals.”
The statement notes that the current financial outlook for U.S. agriculture is grim, with farm income battered by some of the nation’s worst extreme weather events and a growing trade war with key markets.
“Providing greater ecosystem services does not come without cost to struggling operations,” the statement notes. “With the farm economy struggling to regain profitability, the IPCC report underscores the need for policies that incentivize and reward farmers, ranchers and forestland owners for delivering what the world needs – solutions from the land.”
NACSAA Experts Prep Koronivia Submission on Nutrients, Manure Handling
A committee of some of the nation’s top agricultural livestock operators and experts are putting together this month the latest round of NACSAA recommendations for submission to the ongoing Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, focusing on improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems.
Delegates from around the world will hear the recommendations as part of the latest discussions expected during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 25) in Santiago, Chile, in December. The Koronivia agreement aims to develop and implement strategies for mitigation and adaptation in the agriculture sector.
The NACSAA committee charged with developing the alliance’s recommendations is chaired by Leonard Bull, a past professor and chair of Animal Science at the University of Vermont, and emeritus head Animal Science at N.C. State University.
Bull says the recommendations, which will be finalized in September, reassert the importance of animal agriculture and foods of animal origin in feeding and fueling a growing world population while simultaneously delivering ecosystems services.
“I believe that re-asserting the importance of animal agriculture is the critical first step,” he said. “Once that value is reinforced, discussions can then turn to the manure and nutrient management discussions. Water quality, air quality, environmental temperatures, facility design, animal welfare and comfort, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renewable energy generation and carbon management issues will all be a part of the complete package.”
Bull says the overarching approach to the recommendations must assert that animal agriculture (including all food animal and poultry species as well as aquaculture) will, and must, make an integral and major contribution to society, not only for changing climate objectives, but also through contributions to sustainable development goals.
The recommendations will be shaped by the following attributes of the animal-ag sector:
- The conversion of non-competitive, generally human-inedible feeds/foods and by-products, often produced on land not suitable for tillage, into high-quality human food, especially protein of the highest biological value of any natural food.
- The contribution to food security in times of climate extremes through storage of human edible food in the form of animal tissue.
- The enhancement of soil health and sustainability, productivity, and quality through carbon sequestration from manure organic matter, improved soil water management and moderation of soil water release, and recycling of carbon and essential plant nutrients through grazing and/or sound land application practices.
- Contribution to sustainable and renewable energy production by processing and recovering energy extracted and reused from animal manure and other organic wastes from livestock production, and thus offsetting use of fossil fuels, and extraction of fossil carbon.
Other members of the committee include:
- Robert Foster, a partner and operator at Foster Brothers dairy farm, in Middlebury, VT, and Vermont Natural Ag Products (compost and soil amendment products); has served with various state, regional and national ag and dairy-related boards and organizations.
- Tony Forshey, State Veterinarian of Ohio, a nationally recognized swine veterinarian active in the U.S. Animal Health Assoc, National Association of Swine Practitioners and National Institute for Animal Agriculture, among other professional associations.
- David Meeker, a swine geneticist, is the senior scientist vice president of Scientific Services at the North American Renderer’s Association; Director of Research, Fats and Proteins Research Foundation; former scientist for the National Pork Producers Association; and a former executive director of the Ohio Pork Producers Association.
- C. Hunt, Wilson, NC, pork producer; past president, National Pork Producers Council; past president North Carolina Pork Council; co-chair, North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Work Group.
- Ray Gaesser, of Corning, IA, corn and soybean producer; chairman, American Soybean Association; Past President, Iowa Soybean Association; member of the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health; former member, Iowa Department of Economic Development Ag Products Advisory Committee; an active leader in the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA).
- Patrick O’Toole, Savery, WY, cattle and sheep rancher, conservationist and public lands expert; president, Family Farm Alliance, where he has served as a member of the alliance’s Board of Directors since 1998; former member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives; served on the Clinton administration’s Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission.
- Todd Low, manager of the Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services Branch (ALSS) at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). ALSS is responsible for livestock industry development through the creation of strategic partnerships, funding of targeted research projects and community outreach. Low worked at HDOA for over 10 years and has a background in business management.
- Nevil Speer, serves as an independent industry consultant based in Bowling Green, KY. He previously served as full professor at Western Kentucky University. He was subsequently a founder and VP, U.S. Operations for AgriClear, on online cattle sales operation run in partnership with the TMX Group (Toronto), a financial services company.
Serving as submission reviewers will be Richard Vetter, retired Director of Research, A.O. Smith Harvestore Products, and an international expert on anaerobic digestion and recovery of energy from animal/poultry waste; and Neal Martin, retired director of the USDA’s Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, WI, as well as a Soil Health Institute board member.
NACSAA Webinar Underscores Need for Wider Scale of Global Ag Talks
A NACSAA webinar held last month on what transpired at the June climate talks in Bonn (SB50) underscored the limited approaches to climate smart agriculture under discussion by global representatives.
The global conversation about the need to transform agriculture and the food system to meet climate and other sustainable development goals (SDGs) continues to grow. A number of climate smart agriculture leaders in Bonn for the latest UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks called for transformational change in the way food is produced and consumed. While a short video of those discussions has been released, it under-represents a focused discussion of how technology can enable agricultural landscapes to become more resilient and be simultaneously managed to deliver climate mitigation solutions.
NACSAA leaders say the lack of discussion on the available, enabling technology underscores the importance of the Alliance’s work. They note that if the Koronivia joint work on agriculture is narrowly focused on agricultural emission reduction pathways and adaptive management strategies for smallholders, other important steps will not be as widely recognized and may not be focal points for implementation when countries develop policies and programs to meet their nationally determined commitments (NDCs) for GHG reductions.
NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder delivered a message underscoring the importance of the broader policy work. In his remarks, Yoder called for broader cooperation to ensure that the interests and contributions of agriculture in the developed world are properly addressed by the UNFCCC, the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN conventions and bodies.
“While there are many agendas and focuses in the international arena, we cannot lose sight of why North America agriculture has been so successful,” Yoder said. “While I have tremendous respect for all of the work the commodity and farmer groups do, we must go forward with a ‘systems’ approach. That means getting out of our silos and sharing the vast amount of knowledge we have accumulated, with each other.”
Yoder said a collaborative approach, not a competitive one, is needed.
“While we have heard much in the international circles how our system is ‘broken,’ we have done a poor job of showcasing how much progress we are making,” he said. “Technology and precision advancements have done wonders to help us cope with the changing weather patterns we are experiencing today.
“By using these new advancements along with all of the other opportunities for production agriculture to become ‘solutions’ to our challenges, let’s work together to find ways to discover economic ways to improve our systems and also provide ecosystem services for our planet,” Yoder said. “Any plan we move forward must have farmers involved in the process. Farmer leaders will be the ones to convince other farmers to advance climate smart agriculture.”
He called for help from the agriculture sector, including value chain members, both in knowledge sharing and financial assistance, “to show the rest of the world how far we have come, as well as how far we need to go to accomplish our goals. Let us become the template for feeding the world in a climate smart system.”
To learn more about the positions being advanced and debated in the KJWA, stakeholder submissions can be viewed HERE. Once at the “Home” page, type in “agriculture” in the search bar and then click on the “calls for submissions” tab.