February 2019


EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to 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 info@SfLDialogue.net.

NACSAA in Action


Seeking Volunteers to Help Develop Global CSA Recommendations


NACSAA is seeking volunteers to serve on five action teams being formed to develop the alliance’s latest round of submissions for the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.


The NACSAA recommendations will supplement proposals put forward last March and October to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)  and will be framed around the three pillars of climate smart agriculture:

  1. Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods (i.e. sustainable intensification);
  2. Enhancing adaptive capacity and improving resilience; and
  3. Delivering ecosystem services, sequestering carbon, and reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions

NACSAA’s first submission identified priority areas of focus for the work plan. NACSAA’s recommendations included soil health, livestock productions systems, crop and nutrient management, agroforesty, water resource management and integrated solutions, including bioenergy.


NACSAA submitted a second round of recommendations in October ahead of the global climate talks held in Katowice, Poland, in December – the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) – and offered means by which the areas of focus can best be addressed, how the work plan will be constructed and who gets to participate in its development.


NACSAA’s second submission called for the involvement of agricultural and forestry stakeholders by allowing accredited observer organizations to participate in the workshops and other contribution platforms, allowing their real-world expertise and experiences to help inform decision making in the development and finalization of the Koronivia program. That includes input from recognized technical agricultural experts drawn from farmer organizations, academia, industry, and international and regional organizations across the globe.


NACSAA is now seeking members who can collaborate in developing upcoming submissions, which will offer methods and approaches for:

  • adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience;
  • improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland;
  • water management;
  • nutrient use and manure management practices that lead to sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • livestock management practices.

Submissions will also include research recommendations and references to peer-reviewed databases, reports and programs that have proven to be effective in advancing the 3 pillars of climate smart agriculture.


For those NACSAA members wishing to volunteer, contact Ernie Shea at 410-952-0123, or email him at [email protected].


NACSAA Calls for Sensible Approach to Climate Change Policy


Two hearings in the House of Representatives this week give strong indication of congressional intent to focus time and what will likely be legislation on climate change this year.


The House Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change will both kick off climate hearings Wednesday, the first on the issue in Congress in two years.


Prominent on the Natural Resources panel’s list of witnesses are North Carolina Gov. Cooper, a Democrat who has called for a 40 percent reduction in his state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who has signed on to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to upholding the terms of the Paris climate accord.


Observers say there now may be some middle ground for debate, which in recent years has been stifled by extreme positions – absolute denial of climate change versus overprescribed, one-size-fits-all, solutions that will likely prove harmful to the ag sector’s ability to produce the food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services required in the decades ahead.


NACSAA embraces a more centered and pragmatic approach – climate smart agriculture (CSA) – to enhance the adaptive capacity of North America agriculture. The three pillars of CSA are: 1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods (i.e. sustainable intensification); 2) enhancing adaptive capacity and improving resilience; and 3) delivering ecosystem services, sequestering carbon, and reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.


In a blog posted last month, Solutions from the Land, said there is growing recognition and awareness that global climate and sustainable development goals cannot be met by simply reducing emissions from the power generation, transportation and manufacturing sectors.


“A new solution platform is urgently needed, wherein working and natural lands are managed to produce needed goods and services to sustain a growing world and simultaneously sink carbon,” the blog states. “To capitalize on the near-term and high-value solutions that America’s farms, ranches and forests can deliver, smart enabling policies are needed.”


Those policies, the blog states, will help those who directly manage land to sustainably intensify production and meet the needs of a global population expected to climb more than 30 percent over the next three decades, reaching nearly 10 billion people by 2050.


Other NACSAA members and stakeholders say they are assessing the political landscape presented by the new congress before firming up any legislative proposals aimed at climate change.


A National Farmers Union (NFU) executive says his group has not yet identified a policy vehicle for promoting the efforts of family farmers and ranchers in climate change mitigation. The NFU was successful in getting some of its climate related language in the farm bill adopted and signed into law in December. But the organization is expected to elevate the profile of what farmers can offer sequestration-wise, calling for legislation this year that offers more incentives for farmers to deploy climate services on the farm, as well as push the need to provide funding for public research on adaption best practices and mitigation.


The NFU has been active over the past several years in climate change education, recruiting “climate leaders” in a program that encourages the sharing of experiences and information among its members. It is also developing a climate guide, and generating a regularly run, online climate column addressing the impacts and mitigation opportunities presented by climate change including drought and heat stress on livestock, among others. The NFU, which has also established a climate leader Facebook community, is pursuing collaboration with other food system stakeholders  and government agencies to expedite “deployment of climate services” among its members.


Elsewhere, Pat O’Toole, with the Family Farm Alliance, says his group is “cautiously optimistic” over prospects that the new congress will recognize the contributions agriculture makes that counter climate change.


The alliance is comprised of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in seventeen Western states. The Alliance is focused on ensuring the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.


O’Toole, who said he recently met with committee staff on Capitol Hill, says there will be renewed discussion of climate issues this year, and encouraged NACSAA members to make sure climate advocates in Congress understand the efficiency of irrigation that ag producers are building into the system.


Meanwhile, NACSAA Steering Committee Chairman Fred Yoder says the importance of action now is underscored by the economic downturn America’s farmers have been experiencing over the past five years.


“It’s a slump that demonstrates the sector’s vulnerability to changing conditions, whether they be from volatile weather that places additional pressures on productivity, net farm income and soil and water resources, or market forces that impact commodity supply and demand,” he said.


“These growing uncertainties make it critical for policymakers to provide U.S. farmers, ranchers and forestland owners with the tools – programs, funding mechanisms, incentives, tax breaks and research, among others – that are needed to meet challenges that are only intensifying with time,” Yoder said.


NACSAA Members Challenge EAT-Lancet Report for Lack of Producer Input


Solutions from the Land and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) and are among groups who have strongly rebutted a report released last month in Oslo that called for a “radical transformation of the global food system,” including an overhaul of food production systems.


Critics note the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, failed to engage farmers or others who work the land in putting together its assessment.


For more than a decade, SfL has championed the call for transformational change to build a more resilient food system. However, SfL and other alliance members questioned EAT-Lancet’s conclusions, noting that wholesale, fundamental changes to agriculture as it exists today cannot be undertaken without fearlessly confronting the challenges and opportunities uniquely understood by farmers and livestock producers.


With the global population jumping nearly 30 percent – up to nearly 9 billion people – by mid-century, maintaining and expanding the capacity of agriculture to help meet sustainable development goals is critical. Meeting those goals cannot be achieved by shutting down agricultural systems or prescribing food choices, as the EAT-Lancet report advocates, they add.


“We should not confuse the capacity to create abundance with poor choices,” said NACSAA Steering Committee Chairman Fred Yoder. “The question is ‘What is needed to enable even greater efficiency, nutrition and environmental outcomes?'”


USFRA CEO Erin Fitzgerald said that while the EAT-Lancet report “attempts to define what constitutes a healthy diet from our sustainable food systems” and that USFRA shares “the commission’s goal of continuous improvement in the global food systems, we do not embrace limited pathways to attain environmental and nutritional outcomes. We believe there are multiple pathways and have confidence in the ability” of agricultural producers to meet UN goals to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.


“But,” Fitzgerald cautions, “the challenges before us are real. It’s imperative that we work together. Farmers and ranchers provide a critical boots-on-the-ground perspective – living and working every day to make sustainable food systems a reality.”


Featured News

Extreme Weather, Geopolitics Major Drivers of Increasing ‘Food Shocks’


Global food production is suffering from an increasing number of ‘food shocks,’ with most caused by extreme weather and geopolitical crises. An international study looked at the incidence of land and marine food shocks – sudden losses in food production – between 1961 and 2013.


The research, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, identified 226 food production shocks across 134 nations over the 53-year period, noting an increasing frequency of shocks across all sectors on a global scale.


Lead author Richard Cottrell said extreme weather was a major cause of shocks to crops and livestock, highlighting the vulnerability of food production to climate and weather volatility.


“In recent decades we have become increasingly familiar with images in the media of disasters such as drought and famine around the world,” Cottrell said. “Our study confirms that food production shocks have become more frequent, posing a growing danger to global food production.”


Cottrell said his team looked at the full range of global food production systems, covering crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture.


“We found that crops and livestock are slightly more shock-prone than fisheries and aquaculture, and some regions, such as South Asia, are more frequently affected than others,” he said. “While the number of food shocks fluctuates from year to year, the long-term trend shows they are happening more often.”


Cottrell said the increasing frequency of food shocks gave people and communities less recovery time between events and eroded their resilience.


“Reduced recovery time hinders coping strategies such as accumulating food or assets for use during times of hardship,” he said. “Combined with adverse climate conditions, conflict related shocks to food production across sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East have led to a rise in global hunger since 2010.”


Cottrell said land-based crop and livestock production are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as drought, which are expected to become more frequent and intense with climate change.


“However, marine-based food production is not immune from shocks,” he said. “Overfishing was responsible for 45 per cent of shocks detected in landing data, while disruptions to aquaculture production have risen faster and to a higher level than any other sector since the 1980s.”


The researcher said globalized trade and the dependence of many countries on food imports mean that food shocks are a global problem, and that the international community faces a significant challenge to build resilience.


“This can be done through measures such as investing in climate-smart food systems, and building food reserves in import-dependent nations so they are better able to deal with the impact of disruption caused by problems such as climate change,” Cottrell said.


EIA Says the Power of Renewable Energy Remains Strong


The DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) this month said it expects that non-hydroelectric renewable energy resources such as solar and wind will be the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years.


The potential for power growth from biomass, which now represents only about 1 percent of the nation’s total output, is now greater with recently adopted federal policies designating woody biomass as carbon neutral.


The EIA says renewable energy has been the fastest growing domestic energy sector over the past decade, adding that in recent years, the expansion of sources such as wind, solar and biopower has boomed, adding on to the impressive growth of a sector that also includes hydropower, geothermal power and biofuels.


Renewable energy’s growth has contributed to the reduction of coal’s share of total generation from 45 percent in 2010 to 24 percent last year, the EIA says.


Furthermore, the location of most wind and biomass plants and many solar plants on lands leased in rural America offers stable, much needed revenue streams to areas of the country that have been economically hammered for well more than four years due to flagging commodity prices and trade policy disputes.


EIA’s January 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that electricity generation from utility-scale solar generating units will grow by 10 percent in 2019 and by 17 percent in 2020. The January STEO also shows that wind generation will grow by 12 percent this year and 14 percent next year. Those increases will raise the share held by solar and wind energy in total U.S. electricity generation, which the EIA expects to fall by 2 percent this year and then show very little growth in 2020.


The projected increase in renewable energy resources is a result of the new generating capacity the industry expects to bring online. About 11 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity is scheduled to come online in 2019, which will be the largest amount of new wind capacity installed in the United States since 2012. Furthermore, EIA expects that electricity generated from wind this year will surpass hydropower generation. With an additional 8 GW of wind capacity scheduled to come in 2020, the share of total U.S. generation from wind is projected to increase from 7 percent last year to 9 percent next year.


Meanwhile, solar is now the third-largest renewable energy source in the United States power sector (solar surpassed biomass in 2017). With 4 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity projected to be added this year and almost 6 GW in 2020, operational solar capacity will increase by some 32 percent over the two-year span, the EIA projects.


In addition to utility-scale solar in the electric power sector, small-scale residential and business photovoltaic-system capacity is projected by EIA to grow by almost 9 GW during the next two years, a huge increase of 44 percent.


As has been the case for over the past five years, the levelized cost of energy from solar and wind continues to drop rapidly. Lazard Ltd., a financial advisory group, says that with utility-scale solar at $36 per megawatt-hour and wind at $29, both are cheaper than the most efficient natural gas plants, coal plants or nuclear reactors. That savings has contributed to renewables now representing some 18 percent of total power generation, doubling since 2008.


New federal policy that holds biomass carbon neutral is expanding an industry that now stands at $1 billion industry, with 80 facilities in 20 states that accounts for more than 15,500 jobs, most of which are in small rural communities. By using organic forest residues – material that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left as fodder for forest fires – biomass power is displacing some 30 million tons of carbon emissions annually.


Corn-based ethanol, which research shows has up to 43 percent fewer carbon emissions than gasoline, continues to represent about 10 percent of the nation’s transportation fuel – a share that will grow once the Trump administration follows through on its promise to end the unnecessary ban on summertime sale of E15.


The share could grow even more if the administration follows through on DOE research showing that high-octane, low-carbon ethanol blends up to 40 percent, paired with optimized engines, are among the lowest-cost means to achieve significant car and light truck fuel economy goals and GHG reductions going forward.


Climate Change Tipping Point Could Be Coming Sooner than Expected


A new study shows that vegetation may not be able to continue abating the effects of emissions from human activities, a finding that suggests the climate change tipping point may come sooner than scientists have projected.


The Columbia Engineering study, published Jan. 23 in Nature, confirms the urgency to tackle climate change. Researchers say that while it’s known that extreme weather events can affect the year-to-year variability in carbon uptake, and some suggesting that there may be longer-term effects, the new study is the first to actually quantify the effects through the 21st century.


The study demonstrates that wetter-than-normal years do not compensate for losses in carbon uptake during dryer-than-normal years, caused by events such as droughts or heatwaves.


Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and producing unnatural changes to the planet’s climate system. The effects of the emissions on global warming are only being partially abated by the land and ocean. Currently, the ocean and terrestrial biosphere (forests, savannas, croplands, pasture, etc.) are absorbing about 50 percent of these releases – explaining the bleaching of coral reefs and acidification of the ocean, as well as the increase of carbon storage in our forests.


“It is unclear, however, whether the land can continue to uptake anthropogenic emissions at the current rates,” says Pierre Gentine, associate professor of earth and environmental engineering and affiliated with the Earth Institute, who led the study. “Should the land reach a maximum carbon uptake rate, global warming could accelerate, with important consequences for people and the environment. This means that we all really need to act now to avoid greater consequences of climate change.”


Working with PhD student Julia Green, Gentine wanted to understand how variability in the hydrological cycle (droughts and floods, and long-term drying trends) was affecting the capacity of the continents to trap some of the emissions of CO2. The research is particularly timely as climate scientists have predicted that extreme events will likely increase in frequency and intensity in the future, some of which they say we are already witnessing today, and that there will also be a change in rainfall patterns that will likely affect the ability of the Earth’s vegetation to uptake carbon.


To define the amount of carbon stored in vegetation and soil, Gentine and Green analyzed net biome productivity (NBP), defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the net gain or loss of carbon from a region, equal to the net ecosystem production minus the carbon lost from disturbance like a forest fire or a forest harvest.


The researchers were able to isolate the effects of changes in long-term soil moisture trends, such as drying, as well as short-term variability, including the effects of extreme events such as floods and droughts, on the ability of the land to uptake carbon.


“We saw that the value of NBP, in this instance a net gain of carbon on the land surface, would actually be almost twice as high if it weren’t for these changes (variability and trend) in soil moisture,” says Green, the paper’s lead author. “This is a big deal. If soil moisture continues to reduce NBP at the current rate, and the rate of carbon uptake by the land starts to decrease by the middle of this century – as we found in the models – we could potentially see a large increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and a corresponding rise in the effects of global warming and climate change.”


“This study is highly valuable as it shines a bright spotlight on just how important water is for the uptake of carbon by the biosphere,” says Chris Schwalm, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Research Center and an expert in global environmental change, carbon cycle sensitivity and modeling frameworks.


Schwalm, who was not involved in the study, said the study “also exposes underdeveloped aspects of Earth system modeling such as processes related to vegetation water-stress and soil moisture, which can be targeted during model development for better predictive capacity in the context of global environmental change.”


Warning for World’s Groundwater Reserves


A team of international collaborators have for the first time provided an insight into what will happen if climate change affects the replenishment of global groundwater system reserves.


In a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the research team shows that in more than half of the world’s groundwater systems, it could take more than 100 years for groundwater systems to completely respond to current environmental change.


Groundwater, found underground in the cracks and pore spaces in soil, sand and rock, is the largest source of usable freshwater in the world, and is relied on by more than two billion people as a source of drinking and irrigation water.


Groundwater resources are replenished predominantly through rainfall in a process known as recharge. At the same time, water exits or discharges from groundwater resources into lakes, streams and oceans to maintain an overall balance.


If there is a change in recharge, for example due to a reduction in rainfall as a result of climate change, the levels of water in the ground will begin to change until a new balance is achieved.


However, questions still remain about how groundwater will be specifically impacted by future climate change, and where and when any changes will take place.


“Our research shows that groundwater systems take a lot longer to respond to climate change than surface water, with only half of the world’s groundwater flows responding fully within ‘human’ timescales of 100 years,” said Mark Cuthbert, lead author of the research.


Cuthbert, who is with Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Water Research Institute in the UK, said a slow response by systems would indicate that in many parts of the world, changes in groundwater flows due to climate change could have a very long legacy.


“This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the baseflow to rivers and wetlands a long time later,” he said.


The study shows that recognizing the potential for these initially hidden impacts is essential when developing water management policies, or climate change adaptation strategies for future generations.


In their study, the researchers used groundwater model results in combination with hydrologic datasets to determine the dynamic timescales under which groundwater systems respond to climate change.


They discovered that, in general, groundwater in wetter, more humid locations may respond to climate change on much shorter timescales, whereas more arid locations where water is scarcer naturally have much longer groundwater response times.


Pinpointing of locations is significant. For many parts of the world, especially where surface water supplies are less available, the domestic, agricultural, and industrial water needs can only be met by using the water beneath the ground.


Attis Acquires NY Ethanol Plant with Eye on Wood-Based Cellulosic


A Georgia-based technology holding company has bought a corn ethanol plant in New York state with plans to a convert it into a cellulosic ethanol facility that will use forest debris as a feedstock.


Attis Industries Inc. purchased the 85-million-gallon ethanol plant near Fulton, NY, from the oil major, Sunoco LP, for $20 million in cash, a sale that is expected to reach regulatory clearance by the end of the quarter.


The company has interests in the healthcare, medical waste and environmental technology fields, and is making its first foray into the biorefinery business. Attis says it will have a 10-year offtake agreement with Sunoco for the ethanol produced.


The company says the 90-acre facility will become the essential element of the company’s expanding technology portfolio. Attis says it will invest some $100 million in improvements to be made at the site over the next 24 months to create what the company says will be the first of its kind, major renewable energy campus.


Attis says its management team has a long-standing relationship with Sunoco and the operational team in place at the Fulton ethanol facility. The offtake agreement, the company says, will create “valuable stability for Attis as it plans its capital improvement strategy for the facility.”


Attis acquired the plant within a week of announcing an agreement to collaborate with Novozymes A/S, which will supply the enzymes required by the holding company to convert its pulp at all of its planned biorefineries. Novozymes has a broad portfolio of biotechnology to support commercial cellulosic biofuels production, and the ability to ramp up production as needed in an effort to support what Attis calls its “ambitious growth plans.”


The acquisition of the plant “is a significant step in Attis establishing a foothold in the renewable fuel space, while accessing the fourth largest gasoline market in the United States,” said company CEO Jeff Cosman. “Attis’ familiarity with the facility, as well as the progressive business environment in the state of New York, provide us with a unique opportunity to transform an asset with incredible potential into an innovative campus for bio-based fuel that is consistent with our short and long-term growth strategy.”


Attis concedes the struggles the biofuel sector has had in achieving some modicum of success in producing cellulosic ethanol. The Renewable Fuel Standard reauthorized by Congress in 2007 called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to be blended into the national fuel supply in 2010, followed by 500 million in 2012, one billion gallons in 2013, 5.5 billion gallons by 2017, then up to 16 billion gallons in 2022. However, only 10 million gallons were produced in 2017.


However, Chris Kennedy, vice president for Attis Innovations, told the Albany Times Union that the firm “absolutely” wants to start cellulosic ethanol production at the rebuilt Fulton refinery, noting that Attis has “a number of proprietary technologies that focus on converting forest waste and other woody biomass into cellulosic fuels and other bioproducts like carbon fiber and plastics.”


He also told the newspaper that New York State has more than 18 million acres of forest lands “that produce a wealth of sustainable feedstocks for Attis’ planned non-corn biofuel production. State forest lands can produce 40 to 60 million tons of ‘new-growth’ biomass annually and Attis needs less than 0.3 percent of this regenerating supply to supply one of its biorefineries.”




Other News We Are Reading…


U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Spiked in 2018

(The Washington Post)


According to new research, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose some 3.4 percent in 2018, a jarring increase that comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. The findings, published Tuesday by the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group, mean that the United States now has a diminishing chance of meeting its pledge under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to dramatically reduce its emissions by 2025. The findings also underscore how the world’s second-largest emitter, once a global leader in pushing for climate action, has all but abandoned efforts to mitigate the effects of a warming world. The sharp emissions rise was fueled primarily by a booming economy, researchers found. But the increase, which could prove to be the second-largest in the past 20 years, probably would not have been as stark without Trump administration rollbacks, said Trevor Houser, a partner at Rhodium. Read more…


EPA Says It Will Finish E15 Gas Rule Before Summer, Despite Shutdown



The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Friday it will complete a proposal to expand sales of higher ethanol blends of gasoline in time for summer, despite delays from the partial government shutdown. “I still think we can get the rule done in time and what I mean by that is get the rule in place by start of the summertime,” Bill Wehrum, the agency’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters at a public event in Washington, referring to the name for gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. President Trump had promised U.S. farmers and biofuels producers that his administration would lift a long-time ban on summertime E15 sales to help boost demand for the corn-based fuel. Read more…


Facing Soil Crisis, U.S. Farmers Look Beyond Corn and Soybeans

(The Christian Science Monitor)


Shovel in hand, Duane Hager heads for his cornfield and digs up a shovelful of dirt, revealing wriggling earthworms. Although a pelting rain has soaked his gray T-shirt in seconds, not a single puddle lies in the field or in the cow pasture beyond – a sign of vigorous, uncompacted earth. “If you have soil that is healthy and balanced, it translates into your animals,” says the Kellogg, MN, dairy farmer. Across the American Midwest and Plains, small groups of farmers are looking at their most important resource – the soil – and contemplating big change.

Read more…


ARPA-E Funds for Projects to Develop Sensors for Bioenergy, Agriculture

(Ethanol Producer Magazine)


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy recently awarded nearly $6 million to four projects under its OPEN+ program for the Sensors for Bioenergy and Agriculture cohort team. According to ARPA-E, the team will develop ultra-low energy distributed sensors to improve production efficiency in agriculture, boosting viability for bioenergy crops and reducing the energy and water requirements for agriculture more broadly. Read more…


Rural Areas’ Tie to Environment Means Bigger Climate-Change Impact

(Daily Yonder)

Mainstays of rural American culture and economy – such as timber, agriculture, tourism, ranching, hunting, fishing, winter sports – could see major disruptions from climate change. The impact will be big enough to disrupt the national economy, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment. The report documents changes in the timing of seasons, temperature fluctuations, increased incidence of extreme weather and change in rainfall – all patterns with the potential to disrupt rural economic activities. Climate change in rural communities poses an outsized risk to the national economy, the report says. “Rural America’s importance to the country’s economic and social well-being is disproportionate to its population, as rural areas provide natural resources that much of the rest of the United States depends on for food, energy, water, forests, recreation, national character, and quality of life,” the report states. Read more…


Group Says 2018 fourth Warmest Year on Record, Indicating ‘New Norm’

(The Washington Post)


The year 2018 is likely to have been the fourth warmest year on record, a scientific group pronounced Thursday – and joins three other extra-hot years since 2015 that suggest a leap upward in warmth that the Earth may never return from in our lifetimes. The warmest year on record for the Earth’s land and oceans was 2016 – by a long shot, thanks to a very strong El Nino event. That’s followed by 2017, 2015, and now 2018, said Zeke Hausfather, a research scientist with Berkeley Earth, which released the findings.”2018 is consistent with the long-term warming trend,” Hausfather said. “It’s significantly warmer than any of the years before 2015. There’s still this big bump up after 2014, and 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 are all in a class of their own.” Read more…


New Midwest Govs Spur Hope for Regional Fight Against Climate Change (Bridge)


A new crop of Democratic governors in the Midwest is reviving hopes of regional collaborations to fight climate change. Besides Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, new governors in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin have vowed all vowed take action on global warming. That’s prompted some to wonder whether they could join forces on policy or other practices related to climate change. After all, it’s happened before. More than a decade ago, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and counterparts in five Midwest states and a Canadian province agreed to aggressively fight climate change through a market-based system called cap-and-trade. Michigan and its neighbors have since made strides towards cleaner energy economy, but only individually. Shifting political winds and a lack of legislative support ultimately doomed the Midwestern accord before carbon trading got off the ground. Read more…


We Need to Accept We’re Likely Underestimating the Climate Crisis(Esquire)


One thing that often gets lost amid the growing pile of reports on the escalating climate crisis is that science, as a method of learning about the world, is fairly conservative. The scientific community does not accept a claim until it has been subjected to the scientific process. This includes an incredibly thorough vetting procedure, known as peer review, that essentially consists of scientists tearing at their colleagues’ research, trying to poke holes in it. They recreate the experiment themselves, repeatedly, to see if they find the same results. Something that gains acceptance with the vast majority of the scientific community, like the consensus that climate change is happening and human activity is causing it, has been so extensively examined by so many different people over so many years that it may very well be one of the things we, as a species, can be most confident is true about our world. Read more…


2018: The Year of 100-Percent Clean Energy (GTM)


Last year, tense debate over the feasibility of 100 percent renewables entirely consumed the energy industry. Stanford professor Mark Jacobson stood on one side, arguing 100 percent renewables will be technically possible by 2050, while Christopher Clack led critiques picking apart that modeling. The controversy even spurred a lawsuit. In 2018 those conversations didn’t entirely dissolve, but they were overshadowed by action. Two states, California and New Jersey, joined Hawaii in committing to 100 percent clean energy (Hawaii’s goal is actually 100 percent renewables). In December, the number of cities committed to 100 percent clean or renewable energy surpassed 100. Read more…


PA Commits to 26% GHG Reductions Amid Federal Inaction(Dive Brief)


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, signed an executive order committing the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. The new goals are unlikely to mean near-term changes for utilities due to Pennsylvania’s deregulated markets, but advocates on the ground say they are an important symbol as the state tackles clean energy policy. Wolf’s order also establishes a GreenGov Council to help the state meet a trio of electric vehicle, efficiency and renewable energy goals that will apply to governmental agencies. Read more…



Partner News and CSA Events


Upcoming Webinar:

Sequestering Carbon in Agricultural Soils: What Works?


Feb 12, 2019 1:00 p.m. EST




What will you learn?

Participants will learn how carbon is sequestered in agricultural soils and how agriculture can contribute to climate change mitigation and help Maryland reach its GHG reduction goals. Learn more…



  • Dr. Sara Via, Professor and Climate Extension Specialist, Dept. of Entomology & University of Maryland Extension, University of Maryland, College Park


Session Details: Feb 12, 2019 1:00 pm US/Eastern. Duration: 1 hour

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Who should participate:

People interested in land-based carbon sequestration or the relationship between agriculture and climate change, extension personnel who work with soil health and/or NRCS conservation practices, NRCS personnel.


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  • Certificate of Participation – 0 hour NA Credit


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Presented by USDA Northeast Climate Hub. Made possible through USDA Southern Regional Extension Forestry (SREF).


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 info@SfLDialogue.net.

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