August 2019


EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the latest edition of NACSAA News, a monthly compilation of CSA-related news. “NACSAA in Action” features the latest on the Alliance activities; “Featured News” offers some of the biggest CSA-related stories of the past month; “Other News We Are Reading” is a listing of news stories from other sources we think you will find of interest; and “Partner News and Events.” We hope this newsletter will serve to keep you, your members and other constituencies fully engaged in the growing development of climate-smart agriculture policy, programs and practices. Your feedback is welcome and appreciated. To subscribe, email

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.


Rep. Kathy Castor

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.



Featured News

Biofuel Producers, Farmers Say RFS Waivers Break Trump Promises


The EPA’s decision to grant 31 more exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to oil refineries announced late last Friday was widely denounced by the biofuels industry, as well as some farm groups.


Credit: Green Car Congress

The 2018 waivers granted, out of 39 requested, represents 1.43 billion gallons of additional lost RFS demand, said the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA). The decision comes are 54 exemptions were given for the prior two years, with not a single waiver request denied.


Granting the waivers represents a “significant broken promise on the part of President Trump that will hurt rural America at the worst possible time,” the RFA said in a statement issued just after the waiver decision was announced.


“At a time when ethanol plants in the Heartland are being mothballed and jobs are being lost, it is unfathomable and utterly reprehensible that the Trump administration would dole out more unwarranted waivers to prosperous petroleum refiners,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Today’s announcement comes as a total shock, as just two months ago President Trump himself heard directly from Iowa farmers and ethanol plant workers about the disastrous economic impacts of these small refinery handouts.”


Cooper said the president responded then that would “look into it” and the industry believed that would lead to the White House and EPA finally putting an end “to these devastating waivers. Instead, the Trump administration chose to double down on the exemptions, greatly exacerbating the economic pain being felt in rural America and further stressing an industry already on life support.”


Cooper insisted that there is no evidence that small refineries are suffering ‘disproportionate economic harm’ due to the RFS, as required before a waiver can be granted. He called the EPA decision-making process is a “sham.”


“Making matters worse, the process remains cloaked in secrecy and bias, and there is mounting evidence that the administration is continuing to grant full exemptions against the recommendations of the Department of Energy – and even against the advice of some EPA officials.”


RFA noted that 13 ethanol plants have recently shut down – three of them permanently – due in large part to the demand loss resulting from the administration’s abusive exploitation of the small refiner waivers.


“Ethanol demand has fallen and prices have plummeted to their lowest values in more than a decade,” Cooper said. “When operating, the 13 plants that recently shut down bought nearly 300 million bushels of corn and supported more than 2,400 jobs in rural communities from Iowa and Minnesota to Mississippi and Virginia. Who will tell those workers and their families that the demands of Big Oil are more important to this administration than the livelihood of rural America?”


Meanwhile, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw called the decision to grant the waivers “devastating news for our industry,” charging that with the waivers, “President Trump has destroyed over a billion gallons of biofuel demand and broken his promise to Iowa voters to protect the RFS.”


He said the vast majority of the exemptions are not justified under the law and since the waivers were announced, RFS credit prices (RINS) have freefallen to nearly zero, “destroying much of the incentive to blend an incremental gallon of ethanol.”


Shaw also had a colorful response to EPA’s estimate of exemptions to be granted next year at zero, noting that “based on the actions of the Trump EPA to date, estimating zero exemptions can best be described as something I stepped in at the Iowa State Fair.”


Shaw said that coming on top of the loss of the massive China market due to a trade dispute, U.S. biofuels producers “are now facing a one-two gut punch from the Trump Administration.”


Elsewhere, the National Biodiesel Board’s Vice President of Federal Affairs, Kurt Kovarik, said, “Less than two months after vowing to always protect and defend American farmers, President Trump is bowing to oil industry pressure and allowing his EPA to dismantle the Renewable Fuel Standard program, force U.S. biodiesel producers out of business, and undermine the farm economy.”


According to University of Illinois economist Scott Irwin, virtually all of the demand destruction from small refinery waivers is falling on the biodiesel industry. Irwin said that at the rate waiver requests are being granted, the U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel industry losses could reach $7.7 billion, or 2.54 billion gallons.


National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp said the waivers “reduce demand for ethanol, lower the value of our crop and undermine the President’s support for America’s farmers. Waivers benefit big oil at the expense of corn farmers who, between losing export markets abroad and ethanol markets at home, are losing patience.


Chrisp called on Trump to “step up for farmers today by reining in RFS waivers. Farmers expect the RFS to be kept whole by accounting for waived gallons and bringing more transparency to EPA’s secret process.


He noted that the nation’s farmers are facing a sixth consecutive year of depressed income and commodity prices, with farm income for 2019 projected to be half of what it was in 2013.


“It’s time for this administration to act in the best interest of farmers,” Chrisp said.


NCGA and the American Soybean Association recently released a joint opinion piece urging President Trump to uphold his commitment to America’s farmers and the RFS.


National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that after more than a year of escalation in the U.S. China trade dispute, “President Trump seems determined to destroy the United States’ reputation as a reliable supplier of quality agricultural products. At the same time, his EPA seems bent on destroying our domestic market for renewable fuels.”


He said the administration’s actions are crippling markets, creating enormous stress in the countryside, and forcing more and more farmers into bankruptcy.


“Our farmers are growing weary of the news from this White House. They’re tired of the empty promises, they’re tired of the excuses, and they’re tired of their needs being put last.”


Study: How Much Do Climate Fluctuations Matter for Global Crop Yields?


The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been responsible for widespread, simultaneous crop failures in recent history, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and other partners.


The findings run counter to a central pillar of the global agriculture system, which assumes that crop failures in geographically distant breadbasket regions such as the United States, China and Argentina are unrelated. The results also underscore the potential opportunity to manage such climate risks, which can be predicted using seasonal climate forecasts.


The study, published in Science Advances, is the first to provide estimates of the degree to which different modes of climate variability such as ENSO cause volatility in global and regional production of corn, wheat and soy. For example, researchers say that such variability caused nearly 18 percent volatility in global corn production from 1980 to 2010.


“Global agriculture counts on the strong likelihood that poor production in one part of the world will be made up for by good production elsewhere,” said Weston Anderson, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and lead author on the study.


Of course, there’s always a chance – however small – that it won’t. The assumption until now has been that widespread crop failures would come from a set of random, adverse weather events, Anderson said.


He and his co-authors decided to test the idea by looking at the impact that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Indian Ocean Dipole and other well-understood climate patterns have had on global production of corn, soybeans and wheat. They analyzed how these modes of climate variability influenced drought and heat in major growing regions.


“We found that ENSO can, and has, forced multiple breadbasket failures, including a significant one in 1983,” said Anderson. “The problem with pooling our risk as a mitigating strategy is that it assumes failures are random. But we know that strong El Niño or La Niña events in effect organize which regions experience drought and extreme temperatures. For some crops, that reorganization forces poor yields in multiple major production regions simultaneously.”


How important is the influence of climate variability? The authors found that, on a global level, corn is the most susceptible to such crop failures. They found that 18 percent of the year-to-year changes in corn production were the result of climate variability. Soybeans and wheat were found to be less at risk for simultaneous failures, with climate variability accounting for 7 percent and 6 percent of the changes in global production, respectively.


“The bigger the uncertainty around climate drivers, the bigger the risk for those involved in the food systems,” said co-author Liangzhi You, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. “The worst affected are poor farmers in developing countries whose livelihoods depend upon crop yields as they do not have an appetite for risks in absence of formal insurance products or other coping mechanisms.” The risk is further exacerbated by challenges posed by lack of infrastructure and resources in developing countries.


“ENSO may not be important in all years, but it is the only thing we know of that has forced simultaneous global-scale crop failures” said Anderson.


Within specific regions, the risk to agriculture by climate variability can be much higher. For example, across much of Africa and in Northeast Brazil, ENSO and other recurring climate phenomena accounted for 40-65 percent of the ups and downs of food production. In other regions, the number was as low as 10 percent.


While on the surface this may appear to mean that those areas more affected by ENSO and other climate patterns are more at risk to extreme events, the numbers actually reflect a link to climate patterns that can be monitored and predicted.


“What excites me about this work is that it shows how predictable modes of climate variability impact crop production in multiple regions and can scale up to influence global production, said co-author Richard Seager of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.”This should allow anticipation of shocks to global food prices and supplies and, hence, improve efforts to avoid food insecurity and provide emergency food assistance when needed.”


Expert Panel ID’s Top Climate Risks for Canada, Potential for Adaptation


The agriculture and food sectors are among a dozen areas that face primary climate change risks identified by an expert panel convened by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA). But the panel has also determined that many costs and damages could be avoided with prompt and thoughtful adaptation.


The CCA is a not-for-profit organization that undertakes independent, evidence-based expert panel assessments to inform public policy development in Canada.


The panel’s report affirms that Canada’s climate is changing, with recent research showing that temperatures are rising twice as fast as the global average. Over the next two decades, Canada can expect more frequent and severe hot extremes, thawing of permafrost, and increases in extreme precipitation.


“Climate change is increasingly leading to costly and disruptive impacts, and current projections suggest the warming in Canada and globally will continue, regardless of the trajectory of global emissions,” said the panel’s chairman, L. John Leggat. “Understanding our top climate change risks and the role of adaptation in reducing these risks can help to support an effective response.”


The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat asked the CCA to examine the top climate change risks for Canada and their relative significance. Other studies have examined climate change risks at the sectoral and departmental level, but few have taken government-wide approach designed to help prioritize government responses.


Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks identifies the top risk areas based on the extent and likelihood of the potential damage, and rates the risk areas according to society’s ability to adapt and reduce negative outcomes. In addition to agriculture and food, other areas at risk determined by the panel are coastal communities, ecosystems, fisheries, forestry, geopolitical dynamics, governance and capacity, human health and wellness, Indigenous ways of life, northern communities, physical infrastructure, and water.


The report describes an approach to inform federal risk prioritization and adaptation responses. The Panel outlines a multi-layered method of prioritizing adaptation measures based on an understanding of the risk, adaptation potential, and federal roles and responsibilities.


“Canada’s unique geographic, environmental, and social identity shapes the hazards that it faces and its exposure to climate-related risks,” said Eric M. Meslin, PhD, FCAHS, President and CEO of the CCA. “This report represents a high-level approach to prioritizing those risks, which we hope will help inform decision making about adaptation strategies.”


Warming Climate Intensifies Summer Drought in Parts of U.S., Study Finds


Climate change is amplifying the intensity and likelihood of heatwaves during severe droughts in the southern plains and southwest United States, according to a new study by a University of Arkansas researcher.


Linyin Cheng, assistant professor of geosciences, used data from the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Community Earth System Model to study summer droughts that occurred both before and after the Industrial Revolution.


Cheng and colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and universities in China and Colorado ran simulations to assess how, and by how much, human-induced climate change affects summer heatwaves in the contiguous United States. The study was published in the Journal of Climate.


The researchers found that in places with low moisture in the soil, such as the southern plains and southwest, higher temperatures brought about by climate change led to an increased “coupling” of land and atmosphere, which further increased the severity of heatwaves. In places with more moisture in the soil, such as the northeast, they found no appreciable coupling and therefore no contribution to heatwave intensification.


“Our analysis of climate simulation finds that summertime drought-heatwave relationships change significantly over the southern and southwest U.S. due to man-made climate change since the late 19th century,” said Cheng. “By contrast, the drought-heatwave relationship over northern U.S regions undergoes little change in the warmed climate.”


The findings raise the idea of a self-reinforcing climate loop: as a region’s climate becomes more arid due to climate change, droughts become hotter, further reducing soil moisture.


“Overall, these results indicate that strengthened land-atmosphere feedback is a significant physical driver for increasing occurrences of drought-related extreme heatwaves, particularly over the semi-arid and arid regions of the United States,” the report states.



Other News We Are Reading…


“Everything is Changing”: Farmers Seek Solutions, Not Slogans, On Climate

(CBS News)


Among climate scientists, the reality of climate change is virtually indisputable, with a consensus of more than 97 percent agreeing that the climate is changing and human activity is the primary cause. A majority of American farmers – finely attuned to conditions affecting their land and livelihoods – also agree the climate is changing, yet many of them express doubts about the reasons and reject the label “climate change.” Dialogue among farmers and scientists is now evolving, however, and helping to bridge the divide on the issue. “I’m scared for my future. I’m scared for my family’s future,” said Brett Adams, a fifth-generation farmer in Peru, Nebraska, located 50 miles south of Omaha, along the still flooded Missouri River. A levee breach during the “bomb cyclone” storm last March left 80 percent of his 4,000-acre farm under water. “It’s just sad to see something that was so great turn into this.” Though he’s seen the damage caused by increasingly extreme rainfall, he resists putting a name to the trend. “I’m not a climate change guy, as far as climate change, global warming, or any of that stuff,” Adams said. “But have I seen the weather change in, say, my 20-year farming career? Absolutely.” (Read more…)


Farmers Don’t Need to Read the Science. We Are Living It. (New York Times)


Many farmers probably haven’t read the new report from the United Nations warning of threats to the global food supply from climate change and land misuse. But we don’t need to read the science – we’re living it. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, there’s not much debate anymore that the climate is changing. The drought of recent years made it hard to ignore; we had limited surface water for irrigation, and the groundwater was so depleted that land sank right under our feet. Temperatures in nearby Fresno rose to 100 degrees or above on 15 days last month, which was the hottest month worldwide on record, following the hottest June ever. (The previous July, temperatures reached at least 100 degrees on 26 consecutive days, surpassing the record of 22 days in 2005.) The heat is hard to ignore when you and your crew are trying to fix a broken tractor or harvest tomatoes under a blazing sun. As the world heats up, so do our soils, making it harder to get thirsty plants the water they need. (Read more…)


A North Carolina Farmer Sees the Climate Changing (The News and Observer)


I have lived and farmed in Chatham County for 36 years and come from a continuous line of farming families. With that background, I’ve always known that a farmer’s livelihood is susceptible to the weather, that’s nothing new. What is new, over the last few years, is a collection of rapidly-increasing changes on my farm that I believe are attributable to changes in the climate. Increased incidence of heavy rainfall is perhaps the most significant factor impacting my farm. The NOAA data shows a pattern of increasingly frequent and more intense storms impacting the Southeastern United States. These hurricanes and strong storms aren’t just a coastal problem. They cause flooding far inland, and I’ve seen it first hand at my Chatham County farm. The increased storms and flooding have resulted in erosion and the creation of gulleys in the last few years, even in properly grazed permanent pastures. During the first 30 or so years on my farm, I documented only one occurrence of five inches or more of rainfall happening in roughly a 24-hour timeframe, and that was during Hurricane Fran. In just the past three years, I’ve documented six such occurrences. This is a tangible, noticeable change.

(Read more…)


Milk’s Nutrient Density Overwhelms Climate Impact (Farm Journal)


No food can be produced without some impact on the environment or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But simply looking at GHGs without accounting for the nutrition provided by food can leave a distorted picture. A study by the Department of Public Health and Caring Science at Uppsala University in Sweden attempts to look at both a food’s nutrient density and the amount of GHGs needed to produce it. The study creates a Nutrient Density to Climate Impact (NDCI) index, which looks at 21 essential nutrients in food in relationship to the GHG emissions created in the production of the food. Milk comes out on top, with an NDCI index rating of 0.54. “Due to low-nutrient density, the NDCI index was 0 for water, soft drinks and beer, and below 0.1 for red wine and oat milk,” say the authors. Soy beverage juice came in at 0.25 and orange juice at 0.28. Anti-dairy lobbyists have pushed back against the study’s findings. (Read more…[subscription])


Restoring Soil Can Help Address Climate Change (The Conversation)


It’s time to take soil seriously. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states with very high confidence in its latest report, land degradation represents “one of the biggest and most urgent challenges” that humanity faces. The report assesses potential impacts of climate change on food production and concludes that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will reduce crop yields and degrade the nutritional quality of food. To avert climate catastrophe, the report warns, people need to make changes in agriculture and land use. In other words, it’s no longer enough to wean society off of fossil fuels. Stabilizing the climate will also require removing carbon from the sky. Rethinking humanity’s relationship to the soil can help on both scores. (Read more…)


Report: Farmers Prevented from Planting Crops on Record 19.4 Million Acres (USDA)


Agricultural producers reported they were not able to plant crops on more than 19.4 million acres in 2019, according to a new report released by the USDA. This marks the most prevented plant acres reported since USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) began releasing the report in 2007 and 17.49 million acres more than reported at this time last year. Of those prevented plant acres, more than 73 percent were in 12 Midwestern states, where heavy rainfall and flooding this year has prevented many producers from planting mostly corn, soybeans and wheat. “Agricultural producers across the country are facing significant challenges and tough decisions on their farms and ranches,” USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said. “We know these are challenging times for farmers, and we have worked to improve flexibility of our programs to assist producers prevented from planting.” (Read more…)


California Wildfires Burn 500% More Land Because of Climate Change (CNN)


Climate change caused the increase in size of wildfires occurring across California in the last 50 years, according to a new study published in this week’s journal

Earth’s Future. Since the early 1970s, California wildfires have increased in size by eight times, the study says, and the annual burned area has grown by nearly 500 percent. “Human-caused warming has already significantly enhanced wildfire activity in California, particularly in the forests of the Sierra Nevada and North Coast, and will likely continue to do so in the coming decades,” the authors of the paper wrote. Last year, for example, the Camp Fire claimed 85 lives in California, making it the deadliest in state history. (Read more…)


Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better for the Planet? Here’s the Science (NPR)


For the environmentally minded carnivore, meat poses a culinary conundrum. Producing it requires a great deal of land and water resources, and ruminants such as cows and sheep are responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, according to the World Resources Institute. That’s why many researchers are now calling for the world to cut back on its meat consumption. But some advocates say there is a way to eat meat that’s better for the planet and better for the animals: grass-fed beef. But is grass-fed beef really greener than feedlot-finished beef? Let’s parse the science. (Read more…)


House Committee Calls for Zero Greenhouse Gas Pollution by 2050 (EOS)


Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced last month that they would pursue a goal of a 100-percent clean economy for the United States with zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050. “The climate crisis is here, and it requires serious federal leadership that’s up for the challenge,” said committee chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “Communities across the country are suffering from historic flooding, raging wildfires, increasingly severe storms, extreme heat and persistent droughts. The climate crisis is here, and it requires serious federal leadership that’s up for the challenge.” The committee has begun a new series of hearings about climate change, with the initial hearing July 24 focusing on pathways to decarbonize the U.S. economy. Upcoming hearings will focus on reducing industrial and transportation emissions and modernizing the electrical grid, among other topics. The committee also plans to hold stakeholder meetings, call for bipartisan and bicameral support, and introduce climate legislation later this year. (Red more…)


Recommended reading…


The Solutions from the Land blog post titled “New Risk Assessment Report A Wake Up Call for U.S. Agriculture” (posted July 24, 2019) can be accessed HERE.



Partner News and CSA Events


We encourage our NACSAA partners and other stakeholders to share with us any organization news or events highlighting your role in climate smart agriculture. We look forward to including your information in our monthly newsletter. Simply send your news or event notices to [email protected].


2019 Farm Field Day to Focus on Cultivating Resilience,

Developing Innovation in Farming


NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder will be a featured speaker next month at a Michigan farm field day that sponsors say aims to highlight strategies and innovations to assist farmers in weathering uncertain seasons, meeting increasing industry regulation and responding to increasingly erratic weather patterns.


The Ottawa and Allegan conservation districts, in partnership with the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, are hosting Cultivating Resilience – 2019 Farm Field Day, from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at Smallegan Farms, 1663 48th Ave, Hudsonville, MI.


Yoder will be among noted national and Michigan-area farmers and industry experts who will share their knowledge and personal experience with climate smart agriculture, cover crops, no-till farming and soil health improvement. He also operates a retail seed and precision planter business and serves as an agronomic consultant to many area farmers.


Yoder has served as president of the National Corn Growers Association and is a frequent traveler to the European Union to speak about co-existence of production systems, where both organic and other production systems can thrive side by side as neighbors. As NACSAA chairman, he has participated in recent UN global climate change discusses and other venues frequently addresses pending climate policy, conservation issues and sustainability concerns.


Yoder will give insight into the economics of incorporating cover crops into his farming operation.  He will also give a presentation on Climate Smart Agriculture, showcasing how agriculture can adapt to changing weather patterns and build soil carbon.


Other speakers during the day include:

  • Joe Scrimger, a lifelong farmer from Lapeer County, who established a soil testing and consulting business servicing farm clients across Michigan and Southwest Ontario until his retirement in 2018. In his workshop “Weeds as Indicators,” Scrimger will discuss how common weeds can reveal what’s going on in the soil beneath our feet.
  • Christina Curell, the statewide cover crops and soil health educator for Michigan State University Extension. She works with Michigan producers to protect the health of their soil while ensuring a sustainable farming system.
  • Jerry Grigar, an NRCS State Agronomist, who credits more than 30 years of no-till on his 140-acre farm in Gratiot County for higher yields in rain-challenged growing seasons.

Cultivating Resilience Farm Field Day is a free event and includes a complimentary picnic-style lunch. A prize drawing will be held at the end of the event. RUP credits and MAEAP Phase 1 credits will be available for producers.


To register for the event, click HERE.

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