March 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

NACSAA in Action

NACSAA Partners Briefed on Efforts Needed

to Address Hits on Global Food System


NACSAA partners attending the Commodity Classic in Orlando last week met during a breakout session to discuss the status of – and path forward for – work being done by the alliance on the Koronivia Joint Work Agreement and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The Koronivia agreement is the first ever agricultural work program being developed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and stems from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The Paris pact and the UN 2030 Agenda and SDGs put food security and agriculture at the center of global development goals. The recognition was further strengthened in 2016 in the outcomes of both the UN Conference of Parties in Morocco (COP22) and the UN Convention on Biodiversity held in Mexico (COP13). The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, launched in 2015, highlights the need to take a nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture.


The process of developing the Koronivia program and meeting the UN SDGs is being informed by inputs from UN constituted bodies, observer organizations and technical experts across the globe.


NACSAA Steering Committee Member Ray Gaesser and Solutions from the Land (SfL) President Ernie Shea provided an update in Orlando on plans to organize 4-5 teams to develop submissions to the international panels overseeing the agriculture and sustainability efforts.


At issue, NACSAA partners were told, are contentions raised by coalitions comprised of animal welfare, plant-based diet, environmental justice, regenerative agriculture advocates and other aligned partners that the food system is “broken.” On multiple fronts, including the Koronivia work, these coalitions are advancing a food system reform agenda that would impair agriculture’s ability to meet growing global demand.


Gaesser and Shea also emphasized that U.S. and commercial scale agricultural interests in the developed world are underrepresented in these forums reinforcing he need for NACSAA and their close partners to engage and strategically advance with science-based facts and solutions that address climate challenges and sustainable development goals.


NACSAA partners in Orlando reviewed and endorsed a draft plan to recruit, support and facilitate focused teams of technical experts and other stakeholders who will formulate the submissions to the UNFCCC bodies that are drafting the Koronivia Joint Work Program on Agriculture. These include:

  • Methods and approaches for assessing 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 towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems
  • Livestock management
  • Bioenergy

Similar teams will be formed to formulate NACSAA’s input into FAO’s and CFS’s agroecology and food system reform initiatives.


The livestock management team is largely formed, and other teams that will be working to inform and shape the Koronivia agreement are now being built out and resourced.


Also discussed at the briefing was the provision of resources for the work streams, and several participants committed to fundraise within their subsector ranks to ensure that adequate resources would be available to underpin this two-year effort.



Featured News


Study: RFS2 GHG Emission Reductions

Far Exceed EPA Expectations


A study released last month finds that the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) has been a major success in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with nearly 600 million metric tons of GHG reduction since the standard was reauthorized in 2007.


Actual GHG reductions under the RFS2 have far surpassed the EPA’s original expectations of 422 million metric tons, according to the study.



The analysis was conducted by Life Cycle Associates, a California-based scientific consulting firm, and commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).


The findings, which came as two House committees held climate change hearings, highlight the important role that ethanol and other biofuels can play in efforts to fight climate change and reduce GHG emissions, the Renewable Fuel Association says.


“The RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 600 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation,” according to the study. “The GHG reductions are due to the greater than expected savings from ethanol and other biofuels. These emissions savings occur even though cellulosic biofuels have not met the RFS2 production targets. Biofuels have achieved and exceeded the GHG reductions estimated by EPA.”


As outlined in the report, the larger-than-expected GHG reductions are due to:

  • The adoption of technology improvements in the production of corn-based ethanol, resulting in far greater GHG reductions than originally estimated by the EPA;
  • The GHG emissions of petroleum are higher than the baseline estimates originally projected by the EPA; and
  • Advanced biofuels like biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable natural gas have contributed additional GHG reductions, even though actual cellulosic biofuel production has been lower than initially projected.

Using the latest available data and modeling tools, the study found that the conventional ethanol consumed in 2018 reduced GHG emissions by 43 percent compared to petroleum, even when hypothetical “land use change” factors are included. That compares to EPA’s initial projections that conventional ethanol would achieve only a 20 percent GHG reduction versus petroleum.


“As this study demonstrates, renewable fuels like ethanol are an incredibly effective tool for reducing GHG emissions,” said Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “And with renewable fuels, we don’t need to cross our fingers and wait for the development and commercialization of a new technology. Ethanol is available here and now to help our nation decarbonize our transportation fuels in a cost-effective manner.


“As the new Congress turns its focus to climate change and efforts to reduce GHG emissions, we encourage lawmakers to recognize and build upon the incredible success of the RFS.” Cooper said.


The 600 million metric tons of GHG reduction achieved under the RFS is equivalent to the GHG savings that would result from removing roughly half of the nation’s automobiles from the road for a full year, or shutting down 154 coal-fired power plants for a year, according to EPA.


A copy of the report is here.


Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Boost

Ethanol Production, Capture Carbon


Bipartisan legislation that would implement strategies that help ethanol producers develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies has been introduced in Congress.


Specifically, the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act simplifies the permitting process for the construction of carbon dioxide pipelines which are needed to transport carbon dioxide captured in the ethanol refining process to locations where it can either be buried 7,000 feet underground or turned into valuable products such as plastics, chemicals, cement and jet fuel.


CCS technologies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere are key tools in the fight against climate change, the bill’s sponsors say, adding that they believe it to be an important first step to enable ethanol producers to capitalize on the 45Q tax credits, which incentivize the deployment of CCS technologies.


“With a struggling farm economy and changing weather patterns, we need to do everything we can to help our agricultural producers succeed and aggressively tackle this climate crisis,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. “Carbon capture, storage and utilization [represent] a largely untapped financial opportunity for our Illinois ethanol producers, and this common-sense, bipartisan bill is an important first step to help them remain successful and make our all-American, homegrown energy cleaner.”


“Some in the ethanol industry, including our company, are investigating ways to capitalize on new carbon capture and sequestration technologies and we see great potential synergies between ethanol and CCS,” said Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol in Pekin, IL. “We appreciate the leadership of Congresswoman Bustos on this issue and many others and look forward to working with her.”


The measure was first introduced last year by Bustos and Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV) and Marc Veasey (D-TX). This year, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) joins as a co-lead. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced an identical bill in the Senate.


The bill is supported by the Carbon Capture Coalition, Bipartisan Policy Center Action, Carbon180, Carbon Wrangler, Clean Air Task Force, ClearPath Action, the Nature Conservancy, Third Way, the Utility Workers Union of America, and others.


CAST Paper Explores Long-Term Impacts

of Aquifer Depletion on U.S. Agriculture


The increased competition for the use of water from aquifers may negatively affect future agricultural practices in drier regions of the United States, suggests the latest paper released by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.


The paper, Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity, reviews the causes and consequences of groundwater depletion – Earth’s most extracted raw material – with a focus on impacts to agriculture as the largest sector of groundwater use.


Agriculture’s large-scale depletion of groundwater began in the 1950s and tripled by the 1990s with approximately 71 percent directed toward irrigating crops, researchers say. As the U.S. population increases, demands for more food production and water supplies will stress valuable water resources, especially in locations sensitive to droughts.


The paper identifies the U.S. aquifer system with the greatest long-term groundwater storage depletion to be the Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains region of the United States.


Meanwhile, two large aquifer systems in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia Plateau aquifer and the Snake River Plain aquifer, have had a net accretion of groundwater levels as compared to predevelopment conditions.


John Tracy, director of the Texas Water Resource Institute and task force chair for the CAST paper, stressed the long-term consequences are apparent and must be addressed carefully in order to avoid abusing this type of water resource.


“There is no silver bullet to address groundwater depletion and its consequences,” he said. “It requires a unique approach to be developed for each situation. We must be prepared to address this problem over the long haul and avoid promoting policies that focus on quick fixes that will ultimately fail.”


The CAST publication provides both an outline of current federal and state policies targeting groundwater depletion and suggestions for future mitigation.


Executive Vice President of CAST Kent Schescke said the purpose of the publication is to provide accurate, science-based information in order to build effective policies in the agriculture industry.


“Enabling policies that protect and manage our water resources using sound science and engineering is another way we continue to help secure a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply,” Schescke said.


Highlights from the paper include:

  • An overview of groundwater and its use in the United States
  • An outline of geographical areas impacted by groundwater use
  • Consequences from depleting aquifers
  • Mitigation efforts to reverse groundwater depletion
  • A case study on the causes, consequences, and mitigation of groundwater depletion

To download a summary of the paper, click HERE.



Other News We Are Reading…

EPA Sends Proposed Rule Lifting Summertime Ban on E-15 to White House



The EPA says it has sent a draft of its proposed rule allowing year-round sales of higher ethanol blends of gasoline to the White House Office of Budget for review. The rule expanding sales of E15 was promised by President Trump late last year as a way to help corn farmers, but includes measures sought by the oil industry to curb biofuel credit market speculation. Following the interagency process, the proposed rule will be published and put out for public comment before being finalized. The process needs to be completed before June 1 to allow for E15 to be available for summer sales when driving demand picks up. Read more…


Elections Bring Boost in Governors Joining U.S. Climate Alliance

(U.S. Climate Alliance)


Reflecting a trend stemming from the November elections, four governors have since Jan. 23 joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of now 22 governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The influx of chief state executives joining the alliance could serve as an opportunity for more policies at the state level that can generate incentives for producers to adopt landscape-wide practices that can address a changing climate. Gov. Janet Mills announced last week that Maine has joined the alliance, a bipartisan coalition committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. With Maine as its newest member, the Alliance represents half of the U.S. population and a combined economy of nearly $11 trillion. Read more…


Finding Practical, Viable Solutions to a Changing Climate

(Solutions from the Land)


Subject to considerable discussion among policy makers in Washington and stakeholder interests across the nation, the Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution that offers a wide-ranging response to warnings from international experts, as well from assessments within the U.S. government, that say a changing climate will have catastrophic consequences if not addressed soon. The dire warnings have helped prompt many in Congress to act. However, the resolution being promoted in the House that calls for a rapid transition to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is weakened by the inclusion of provisions not directly related to climate. And while it recognizes no-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, the resolution fails to acknowledge the importance of other near-term, low-cost, high-value renewable energy solutions like bioenergy, including biofuels. Read more…


Scientists Say Shortcut for Photosynthetic Glitch Can Boost Crop Growth 40 Percent

(Science Daily)


Researchers from the University of Illinois and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) report in the journal Science that crops engineered with a photorespiratory shortcut are 40 percent more productive in real-world agronomic conditions. Plants convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis; however, most crops on the planet are plagued by a photosynthetic glitch, and to deal with it, evolved an energy-expensive process called photorespiration that drastically suppresses their yield potential. Researchers say an additional 200 million people could be fed with the calories lost to photorespiration in the Midwestern U.S. each year. They add that reclaiming even a portion of those calories across the world would go a long way to meeting the 21st Century’s rapidly expanding food demands – driven by population growth and more affluent high-calorie diets. Read more…


Forecast Suggests Earth’s Warmest Period on Record

(University of East Anglia)


The forecast for the global average surface temperature for the five-year period to 2023 is predicted to be near or above 1.0 C above pre-industrial levels, according to new data. If the observations for the next five years track the forecast, that would make the decade from 2014 to 2023 the warmest run of years since records began. The figures released by the UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, include data from a number of sources, including the latest publication of provisional figures for 2018, co-produced by the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climatic Research Unit, and the publication of the latest Met Office decadal forecast to 2023. Records for annual global average temperature extend back to 1850. Read more…


Climate Disasters Cost World $650 Billion Over 3 Years – Americans Bearing Brunt (CNBC)


Climate-related disasters have cost the world $650 billion over the last three years, and North America is shouldering most of the burden, according to a new report from Morgan Stanley. While governments and corporations are taking steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Morgan Stanley says private enterprises need to strongly consider preparing for a world gripped by more frequent and intense weather events, rising sea levels, changes to agriculture and the spread of infectious disease. Those outcomes will have a lopsided effect across industries, raising risks for some and creating opportunities for others. Read more…


Sustainable Energy’s Impressive Growth Blunted GHG Increases In 2018

(Daily Energy Insider)


Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States increased noticeably last year, but the growth of sustainable energy generation and natural gas prevented a full-blown spike, the 2019 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook concludes. The 2.5-percent bump in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over 2017 levels was due more to the industrial and transportation sectors than it was to power generation, which saw a 0.6 percent increase in CO2 at the same time the nation’s electricity demand jumped 2.2 percent. Produced for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the factbook provides market information on the U.S. energy industry, including energy efficiency, natural gas and the renewable energy sectors. The increasing availability of renewables – solar, wind, and hydroelectric power – coupled with plentiful natural gas contributed to remarkably stable prices for electricity and gas during a year that saw more at work and, when at home, reaching for the thermostat during brutal winter cold and sizzling summer temperatures. Read more…


Research Looks at Sustainable Bioenergy from Native Prairies on Abandoned Ag Lands

(Nature Sustainability)


In an ongoing effort to discover the ideal conditions to grow alternative biofuels that offer more environmental benefits, University of Minnesota scientists applied their research on native prairies in the Upper Midwest to understand marginal lands – particularly abandoned and degraded agricultural fields. Noting that native, perennial grasses and abandoned fields have been proposed as a way to increase the environmental benefits of biofuels, researchers have conducted a 10-year study to examine ways to maximize growth of the feedstock grasses that would not require extensive use of nitrogen fertilizers, take land out of food production and retain deeper root systems capable of sequestering more carbon. Read more…


How Plants Learned to Save Water

(University of Würzburg)


Plants that can manage with less water could make agriculture more sustainable. This is why a research team at the University of Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany, is investigating how plants control their water balance. Tiny pores on the leaves of plants, called stomata, have a huge influence on the state of the planet. Through the stomata, plants absorb carbon dioxide, which is incorporated into carbohydrates, and release oxygen. But they also lose water through open pores, which can be life-threatening for plants in dry conditions. Plants therefore have developed complex signaling pathways that optimize the opening width of stomata to match the environmental conditions. Würzburg researchers say knowledge about the evolution of the signaling pathways could feed into breeding efforts to develop crops that can grow with less water. Read more…


The Next Money Crop for Farmers: Solar Panels (The Washington Post)


Randy DeBaillie pointed to the power meter on his snow-covered farm: Even on a foggy, monochromatic day, with the sun barely piercing the clouds, the flat black panels planted nearby in two long rows were generating electricity.  “There’s enough energy produced to run the whole complex,” said DeBaillie, 50, who farms 6,500 acres with his brother and cousin. They typically grow corn and soybeans each spring, but this year they want to put more solar panels on 15 acres – and sell the energy. The earnings, he said, would be about three times what an average harvest would yield there. Across the flatlands of Illinois, a new crop is rising among the traditional waves of grain as farmers increasingly make the same calculation as DeBaillie. Hundreds have applied to host acres of solar panels on their property, a move encouraged by a state law requiring that renewable resources provide 25 percent of Illinois power by 2025. Read more…



Partner News and CSA Events



Soil Health Partnership Calls for Proposals – Deadline March 15


The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) announced it is accepting proposals for partnerships and collaboration for 2019. SHP encourages any organization or individuals who have an interest in working together to submit ideas.


“At the SHP, we collaborate with a diverse network of partners ranging from universities to industry and government groups to non-profits,” said Shefali Mehta, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership. “These broad partnerships enable SHP to maximize the impact of our work. This year we are making this specific call for proposals to ensure that we continue to seek out diverse partners and include a fuller range of ideas.”


Applicants are required to complete the Request for Partnership form on the SHP website. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 15, 2019.


“Whether working with soil science or agronomy experts, developing a partnership in a new state as we expand our farmer network, or fueling a graduate student’s passion for soil health, SHP knows that partnerships make our work stronger and more impactful,” said Mehta.


The Soil Health Partnership will review and respond to the submitted proposals by the end of April.


The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. With more than 140 working farms enrolled in 14 states, the SHP tests, measures and advances progressive farm management practices that will enhance sustainability and farm economics for generations to come.


SHP brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association, the SHP’s vision is driven by initial and continuing funding and guidance from NCGA, Bayer, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, The General Mills Foundation, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, National Wheat Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Pisces Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.


For more, visit

First-Ever National Cover Crop Summit Announced

No-Till Farmer editors have announced the launch of the first-ever National Cover Crop Summit – a free virtual event which will be held March 20-21, 2019.


This free-to-attend, 2-day virtual event will feature a series of knowledge-building sessions taught by the foremost authorities on covers today. Requiring no travel expense or time away from the office or farm, attendees will be able to participate from the comfort of their own office through a series of free video sessions.


At this January’s 27th annual National No-Tillage Conference, held in Indianapolis, January 8-11, President of Lessiter Media, Mike Lessiter, was joined by cover crop expert Steve Groff to announce the first-ever virtual cover crop event. Watch a video of the announcement here.


Several educational sessions will go live each day from March 20-21, allowing attendees the opportunity to choose the speakers and sessions they’re most interested in and participate on their own schedule. Attendees will also be able to ask questions during the presentation and get timely feedback from the speakers, enhancing the interactive and educational nature of this inaugural event.


The first four presenters to headline the National Cover Crop Summit have been announced, along with their session topics. Additional speakers for this event will be announced in the coming weeks. The initial list of committed presenters and topics includes:

  • Steve Groff, longtime no-tiller and cover crop consultant, Holtwood, Pa. – Five Mindsets that Successful Cover Croppers Have in Common
  • Shawn Tiffany, no-tiller and rancher at Tiffany Cattle Co., Herington, Kan. – Improving Farm and Feedlot Soil Health with Cover Crops
  • Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.– Rolling Cover Crops Successfully in No-Till Systems
  • Damon Reabe, Dairyland Aviation – Finding Success with Aerially Seeded Cover Crops
  • Tom Cotter, no-tiller from Austin, Minn. – Integrating Timely Interseeding of Cover Crops for Soil Health and Grazing Benefits
  • Chris Teachout, no-tiller from Shenandoah, Iowa – Realizing the Potential of Alternative Row Spacings and Biomass-Building Cover Crops
  • Paul Delaune, Texas A&M Environmental Soil Scientist – Examining Cover Crop Benefits in Continuous Wheat and Cotton Rotations in a Semi-Arid Environment
  • Rob Myers, Regional Director of Extension Programs – A 360-Degree Perspective on How Cover Crops Affect Farm Profitability

“Lessiter Media is extremely excited to make valuable cover crop management expertise available to growers in a format that is easy to use and convenient for their busy schedules. These sessions are aimed not only at growers already seeding cover crops, but those who wish to learn more as they consider moving toward cover crop adoption,” says John Dobberstein, senior editor at No-Till Farmer.


Find more information and register for the National Cover Crop Summit here.


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

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