Welcome to NACSAA News, a quarterly compilation of CSA-related developments. “NACSAA Members in Action” features the latest on our partners’ activities; “Featured News” offers some of the biggest CSA-related stories of the past quarter; “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” offers the latest partner updates. 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, click here.
NACSAA Members in Action
SfL Adds Broad-Ranging Experience with 8 New Farmer Envoys
Eight prominent voices in the U.S. food and agriculture sectors have come on board as farmer envoys for Solutions from the Land, NACSAA’s sponsoring partner. They join SfL as part of the organization’s broad mission to advance land-based solutions to the interconnected challenges the world now faces, ranging from food and nutrition security, energy security, sustainable livelihoods and climate change, all while overcoming the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These nationally renowned farmers will share their experiences using sustainable production systems and will omote SfL’s vision for a 21st Century “Agricultural Renaissance” that enable all forms and scales of agriculture sto innovate, sustain productivity, enhance resilience to climate change and other shocks, and move the world towards achieving global sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The envoys will proactively engage United Nations agencies and conventions, introducing and engaging conversations on new approaches, which include circular-systems agriculture, a way of going forward that focuses on reducing external inputs, closing nutrient loops, regenerating soils and minimizing ag’s impact on the environment. Envoys also will promote Climate Smart Agriculture, and whole-system technologies that enable the sector to provide the pathways toward meeting SDGs.
Joining as new farmer envoy cohorts are Jocelyn Anderson, a fourth generation farmer from Northern California; Kyle Bridgeforth, the owner/operator at Bridgeforth Farms, a fifth-generation row-crop operation headquartered in Tanne, AL; Brad Doyle, of Weiner, AR, a soybean, rice, wheat, and grass hay farmer; Ben LaCross a second-generation tart and sweet cherry farmer from Leelanau County, MI; Amelia Levin Kent , of Clinton, LA, who raises and markets cattle in most segments of the beef industry; Allyson Maxwell, of Central, MI, who raises sugarbeets, corn, soybeans and wheat; Verity Ulibarri, an owner/operator of a crop and livestock farm with her husband in Curry County, NM; and Shelby Watson-Hampton, a farmer who serves as the director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.
For more on the envoys, click HERE.
Celebration of Modern Ag on the National Mall Delights Tourists, Schoolchildren
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), a NACSAA team member, and more than three dozen AEM partner organizations recently hosted the inaugural Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall outside the USDA headquarters. The event highlighted America’s equipment manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, and agriculture innovators on the forefront of science and technology.
More than 16,000 visitors attended the two-day festival and engaged with hands-on educational displays about modern agriculture. This year’s theme, Innovation Enables Sustainability, highlighted the latest technology in American agriculture and how it enables equipment manufacturers, as well as America’s farmers, ranchers, and growers, to sustainably provide for a growing world.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh celebrated Ag Day, March 22, at the festival and delivered remarks to the audience. AEM engaged with lawmakers and staff from 50 congressional offices, including tours with Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
Several leaders from the United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Food and Drug Administration also visited the festival.
“AEM was honored to lead our member companies and other industry partners in hosting the inaugural Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall,” said Curt Blades, AEM Senior Vice President, Industry Sectors and Product Leadership. “Our equipment manufacturers and agricultural associations demonstrated the work our industry is doing to support farmers, ranchers, and growers produce the food that feeds the world.”
Blades called the event “a fantastic way to have our elected officials get an up-close look at the equipment that makes this possible, and we continue to emphasize why rural America must be at the forefront of the policies lawmakers support.”
Policymakers, industry stakeholders, and visitors enjoyed a half-mile hands-on display of modern equipment and technology. The event also offered a first-hand view of how the latest equipment, crop inputs, data and technology are working together to drive agriculture’s tradition of producing more with less. Sprayers, harvesters, balers, tractors, and other agriculture equipment were onsite for a one-of-a-kind festival just minutes from the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
For more information about the event and the exhibitors, click HERE.
NACSAA Leaders Publish Paper on Circularity in ASABE Journal
A paper written by two NACSAA leaders is calling on agriculture to “adapt the circularity observed in complex natural systems into practical applications for producers and their value chains” has been published in a journal put out by a prestigious international professional society devoted to agricultural and biological engineering.
Dr. Lois Wright Morton, a NACSAA member, a former professor of rural sociology at Iowa State University and now a seventh-generation farmer in Ohio; and Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, NACSAA’s sponsoring organization, wrote the paper
published in the latest Journal of the ASABE, the research publication of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
“Beyond Productivity—Recreating the Circles of Life to Deliver Multiple Benefits with Circular Systems” says diversification and complexity can enable agricultural input and output processes that mimic natural circles of life that make, use, recycle and reuse resources.
The authors say producers must find their own circular systems that work in a particular time, geography and set of conditions, and establish feedback loops that enable continuous adjustment and adaptation as situations change.
The challenge to agriculture, Morton and Shea write, is to adapt the circularity observed in complex natural ecosystems into practical applications for producers and their value chains, thereby shifting intensive linear systems away from the single goal of optimizing monoculture productivity toward circles of life capable of producing multiple benefits concurrently.
The paper makes the case that mixed multi-plant and animal agricultural systems that leverage integrated land management and biodiversity have the potential to deliver multiple benefits, including increased productivity, pest and disease control, water quality, soil health, and economic profitability.
They also say investments in foundational and applied sciences, technologies, and innovations are needed to expand knowledge of agricultural systems and the tools and strategies that will enable continuous adaptative management over time.
New White Paper Says The Real Cost of Gasoline … is to Our Health
A new White Paper from the Clean Fuels Development Coalition rings the alarm that EPA continues to miss opportunities to replace toxic aromatic compounds with clean burning ethanol and the agency could save thousands of lives through reduced particulate emissions in the air we breathe.
Authored by Reid Detchon, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions at the United Nations Foundation, a NACSAA partner organization, and Reg Modlin, former Chrysler Director of Regulatory Affairs, the paper makes a compelling case that the EPA has to go beyond its past practice of regulating vehicles alone and address the composition of gasoline as well.
Enabling the use of low-carbon, high-octane fuels in existing vehicles would achieve immediate reductions in emissions from mobile sources that are impossible to realize in any other way, the authors say. Moreover, corn ethanol with its low carbon and high octane, if used in higher concentrations like an E30 blend, could reduce aromatic content by 40 percent.
The authors dispel myths with respect to corn ethanol’s carbon footprint, impact on land use, impact on food supplies, and emissions and performance concerns.
“As we all seek solutions to cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieve a net zero economy by 2050, encouraging the use of cleaner and more energy-efficient fuel is a complementary step that will also save thousands of lives each year and protect young children in our cities,” Detchon and Modlin assert. “Blending more ethanol into gasoline will improve public health, combat climate change, reduce gas prices, and increase our energy security at no extra cost.”
The authors say no new legislation is required – EPA has all the authority it needs to advance these climate, public health, and environmental justice goals.
“It’s time for EPA to seize the moment and act,” the authors said.
Impact of Agricultural Inputs on Soil Health: Assessing Farmer Interest
NACSAA partner Soil Health Institute (SHI) has partnered with Trust In Food™, Farm Journal’s sustainable ag division, to survey farmers to determine their interest in improving soil health. The results showed that two thirds of the 10,000-farmer poll expressed interest in the impact of ag inputs on soil health.
“Farmers around the world are increasingly focused on improving the health of their soils,” the SHI said in a release announcing the results of the polling. “This interest is well-placed because healthy soils generally have more plant-available nutrients, are more drought resilient, more disease suppressive, and more profitable.”
The group also noted that management systems that improve soil health also benefit the environment by sequestering more carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing nutrient runoff and leaching, and even providing habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
“As more farmers invest to improve the health of their soils, questions are arising as to how agricultural inputs impact soil health,” the SHI said.
The results were determined using a combination of survey questions, analysis of published content, and tracking farmers’ engagement with articles on the topic posted to AgWeb. The survey was sent to 10,000 U.S. farmers who operate at least 100 acres and included:
- 3,500 corn/soybean farmers,
- 3,500 wheat/barley/oat farmers,
- 1,500 cotton/peanut farmers, and
- 1,500 fruit/vegetable (specialty crop) farmers.
Notably, 66 percent of respondents said they are interested in the impact of agricultural inputs on soil health. When those farmers were asked to rate their interest in the effects of manures, pesticides, biologicals, or fertilizers; 62 percent said they are interested in all of those inputs.
Analyzing the level of information consumed by a random sample of 10,000 AgWeb users showed that those farmers who are interested in both agricultural inputs and soil health consume 34 percent more digital information than the whole group, operate 446 more acres, and have a median income $144,410 greater than the whole group. In addition, 45 percent of the farmers are early adopters of conservation practices (25 percent higher than the entire group).
“This analysis clearly shows that many farmers are interested in how different agricultural inputs impact the health of their soils,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, President and CEO of the Soil Health Institute. “To serve these farmers, our next step is to assess the state of the science so we can determine what is currently known and identify any critical gaps that need to be addressed.”
CAST Releases Commentary on Use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in Food, Ag
A paper – Goals, Strengths, and Limitations Governing the Use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) In Food and Agriculture – is now available for free download from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), a NACSAA partner.
Life cycle assessment is a method to identify all the inputs and outputs necessary to make a product and quantify the associated environmental and socioeconomic impacts. In its simplest form, the LCA method describes the inputs (e.g. energy, materials, and resources) to a process and all the resulting outputs including the emissions and losses to the environment.
LCA provides a modeling framework to link all processes together such that the sum of the inputs and outputs of all involved processes are included. LCA provides a system perspective that considers a product’s life cycle and quantifies the relevant impacts caused by it.
The methodologies used in life cycle assessment originated from risk assessment, reduction, and mitigation strategies in hazardous materials management more than 40 years ago. Use of these concepts and methods have emerged in agriculture over the past 25 years. Understanding the impacts of the decisions made in complex systems like agricultural supply chains is difficult.
There are questions that LCA can and can’t answer, the CAST paper observes. The most common questions addressed by LCAs are related to environmental assessment, especially environmental impacts such as global warming potential or water embodied in a product or process. Some questions LCAs cannot answer include normative value decisions, ethical framing, and risk mitigation.
While LCA studies may differ greatly in complexity and scope, they all adhere to common principles and share a common methodological framework. The International Organization for Standardization standard 14040 describes the principles of LCA, which include the life cycle perspective, a relative approach, transparency, and comprehensiveness. Even though LCA is not a cure-all for environmental issues, it is a tool that, if correctly and completely used, can logically and methodically examine environmental impacts for specific products, processes, systems, and even entire supply chains.
The video of a webcast held to detail the research and draw commentary is available HERE on the CAST website.
Bayer to Create Ag Biologicals Partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks
Bayer, a NACSAA partner, announced last month that it was pursuing an agreement with a biotechnology applications firm that it expects will lead to biological solutions to agricultural challenges posed by climate change.
Under the agreement, Ginkgo Bioworks will acquire Bayer’s West Sacramento Biologics Research & Development (R&D) site and internal discovery and lead optimization platform. The transaction, which is projected to close before the end of 2022 pending final negotiation of the agreement terms and subject to regulatory approvals, would also bring Joyn Bio’s nitrogen-fixing technologies to Bayer, successfully closing the joint venture created between Leaps by Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks in 2017.
Ginkgo Bioworks will become a multi-year microbial strategic partner with Bayer in their work to develop biological solutions in fields like nitrogen optimization, carbon sequestration, and next generation crop protection.
Company officials say the transaction will enable Bayer to expand its biologicals position, strengthen its access to key enabling technology in synthetic biology, and maintain Bayer’s role as a preferred research, development, and commercial partner in the biologics segment.
“Bayer’s work in the rapidly growing biologics space is an essential part of our commitment to sustainability and providing effective climate-smart products like nitrogen fixing and optimization technologies,” said Bob Reiter, head of R&D for Bayer’s Crop Science Division. “Our work with Ginkgo will accelerate our biologicals pipeline by leveraging Bayer’s expertise in bringing reliable and effective biological products to market against Ginkgo’s synthetic biology research engine – now enhanced by an expanded ag biologics research and development platform – and help Bayer continue to expand our biologics product range to create tailored solutions for additional crops.”
“This is an exciting time for biologicals and Bayer understands that development of the next generation of biological products must be accelerated to help growers face the challenges of climate change and food security, as well as to meet the demands of sustainability,” said Benoit Hartmann, Senior Vice President and head of Biologics, Crop Science Division. “Leading Bayer biologics products…are already being used by growers across the world to reduce their use of products associated with higher greenhouse gas emissions and improve yields.
Through this transaction, the R&D platform of Joyn Bio is intended to join forces with Ginkgo Bioworks along with Bayer’s West Sacramento R&D platform upon the projected close before the end of the year. Joyn’s successful developments in the exploration of the potential of synthetic biology in nitrogen fixation and other projects will be brought together with Bayer’s biologics development and optimization platform under one roof in order to strengthen biologicals discovery and development and enable accelerated work on sustainable breakthrough technologies for agriculture.
4R Solutions Taken to Global Levels
SfL’s work with Fertilizer Canada, a NACSAA partner, on a 10-month project that included the production and dissemination – nationally and internationally – of a case study and video on best fertilizer management practices has come to a successful close.
The 4R Solution project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, was implemented in Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal in partnership with Fertilizer Canada, CDF Canada and African Plant Nutrition Institute. The project’s aim was to show how adopting more sustainable farming practices can increase resilience, incomes, and food security, and reduce poverty for 80,000 smallholder farmers, particularly women.
Expanding beyond the efficient and effective use of fertilizers, the project also aimed at boosting the ability of farmers to market their crops, given the increased yields and crop quality. The program encouraged extension initiatives, formation of marketing cooperatives and the inclusion of financing partners, as well as efforts to ensure women farmers – who make up half or more of Africa’s smallholder farmers – are prepared for leadership roles.
Over the course of the project, a series of webinars sponsored by SfL and collaborating partners were held to promote the solutions offered by the initiative that have the potential to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as the elimination of poverty, the eradication of global hunger, the assurance of clean water, and the curbing of climate change.
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Project was conceived by Fertilizer Canada, a NACSAA partner that in 2017 published a report – “Getting 4R Sustainability Right“ – that touted the increased adoption among farmers of the 4R principles – tenets that emphasize climate-smart agriculture, in part, by using the “Right source of nutrients, at the Right rate, applied at the Right time, and in the Right place.”
The five-year, $17-million stewardship project has been teaching farmers in Ghana and Ethiopia – through online and hands-on sessions, experiential learning platforms and demonstration plots – how to use the principles to increase yields that address hunger and ensure crops that can be sold to sustain livelihoods. The project also has shown producers how to precisely apply inputs to decrease environmental and financial costs.
In addition to equipping farmers with the 4R principles, the project also is enabled growers to enhance their agricultural production, put together and strengthen farmer co-operatives, and increase the acceptance of women in leadership.
The video and report produced by SfL highlight the initial improvements in production through nutrient management as called for under the 4R Solution project. They also mark the strides being made to increase farmer knowledge, develop finance models, improve marketing channels, and elevate more women farmers to leadership roles.
The highest profile forum for promoting the work and progress to date in the 4R program came when SfL secured a presentation slot at a special information gathering session held in April by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General QU Dongyu Jane Kuluo of the Cooperative Development Foundation Canada presented on the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Case Study in the African nations. The event drew a global audience and was recorded by FAO for dissemination to FAO officials who were unable to participate.
Elsewhere, SfL Board member Lois Wright Morton and SfL President Ernie Shea shared the 4R case study and video with Ghana government officials at global climate negotiations (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, last fall. In January, SfL shared its work nationally and globally in a presentation made at a global farmer organization meeting on agro-environmental policy hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
On another front, SfL used the 4R Solution and other examples of innovation and technology solution pathways in interventions made during the formation of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Agroecology and other Innovations. The new guidelines were adopted in June of last year, but it is anticipated there will be other opportunities going forward to promote the 4R Solution in this area.
USDA Invests Nearly $800 Million in Rural Infrastructure to Combat Climate Change
In observation of Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA is investing nearly $800 million in climate smart infrastructure in 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. The investments include funding for 165 projects to expand access to safe water and/or clean energy for people living in disadvantaged communities.
“People in rural America are experiencing the impacts of climate change in many ways. This includes more severe droughts, more frequent wildfires, and more destructive and life-threatening storms,” Vilsack said.
“When we invest in infrastructure in rural communities, we are investing in our planet, and we’re also investing in the peace of mind families will have when kids are drinking clean and safe tap water in their homes.”
Among actions USDA Rural Development is taking to mitigate the impacts of climate change in rural communities are Clean Energy Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency Improvements.
USDA is investing $787 million in renewable energy infrastructure in 36 states to help agricultural producers, rural small business owners and residents lower energy costs and make energy-efficiency improvements. The department is making the investments under the Electric Loan Program and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Through REAP, the department is helping 157 rural businesses and agricultural producers get access to clean energy, while reducing their carbon footprint to make their business operations more cost-effective.
For example, in South Carolina, Limelight Solar I LLC will use a $2.1 million REAP loan to purchase and install a 2.5-megawatt solar system. The system is expected to produce 3.9 million kilowatt hours per year, which is enough electricity to power 362 homes in the city of Spartanburg.
The Electric Program funding includes nearly $67 million for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.
For example, in Pennsylvania, REA Energy Cooperative Inc. will use a $16 million Electric Program loan to connect 635 customers and build and improve 186 miles of power lines. This loan includes $6.5 million in smart grid technologies, including 35 miles of overhead fiber.
USDA also is investing $12 million to help rural communities hit by severe weather. The funds will benefit people living in 17 states, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico. The Department is making the investments under the Community Facilities Disaster Grants program and the Water and Waste Disposal Disaster Loan and Grant Program.
The funds will help communities build back better by mitigating health risks and increasing access to safe, reliable drinking water and sanitary waste disposal services. Funds also will purchase emergency response equipment to help communities be better prepared and more resilient in the face of disaster.
For example, in Puerto Rico, Acueducto Rural Comunidades Especiales Bayamoncito Inc. will use a $30,000 Water and Waste Disposal Disaster Grant to buy a new 20-kilowatt generator with an automatic transfer switch. This grant will help ensure people living in Aguas Buenas, a community hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, have access to safe and reliable drinking water in the event of any future natural disasters.
The city of Graceville, Minnesota, will use an $11,000 Community Facilities Disaster Grant to purchase and install an emergency storm siren. The siren will alert community residents of potential severe weather.
Kawamura Shares Role of “Ag Renaissance” in FAO Session on ‘Four Betters’
A.G. Kawamura, a California produce grower and shipper, recently told a gathering of global agriculture and food system leaders that an “agricultural renaissance” is now underway in the 21st Century, shifting humanity “towards a new framework of whatever is possible is feasible, and whatever is feasible is now achievable in record time.”
In an information gathering session called by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General QU Dongyu and staged by the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), Kawamura joined dozens of agricultural leaders from around the world called to share private sector ideas to better meet the FAO ideal of “Four Betters” in global agriculture: Better Production, Better Nutrition, Better Environment and Better Life.
Kawamura said the 21st Century Agricultural Renaissance is in full stride, noting that in the previous century, “a cascade of new knowledge, technology, invention and innovation” is providing the momentum this century that is enabling agriculture
to meet its critical role and help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Citing new systems and practices put in place on his California operation leading into this new century – precision drip irrigation and fertigation; Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to bio-control with predators and microbial antagonists; widely varied soil amendments; field testing drought-, heat-, salt- and disease-tolerant new cultivars; and using satellite guided tractors, among many other advances – Kawamura also said he has learned to partner with farmers in other countries and find out that they have learned to grow crops better than we do and together we learn how to be better, safer and more efficient.
“In an Agricultural Renaissance, humanity shifts towards a new framework of whatever is possible is feasible and whatever is feasible is now achievable in record time,” Kawamura told the international gathering. “Imagine stewards of the land, on whatever continent they reside, being recognized, valued and compensated – not just for the food, feed and fiber they sustainably produce, but for the equally important water they filter and store, the biodiversity and wildlife habitat they enhance, soil carbon they sequester, the clean energy they generate, and perhaps most importantly, for the livelihoods they improve.”
He concluded by warning that given the challenges now facing the global food system, “we must recognize that we do not have the luxury to continue to depend on a ‘think-tank’ mentality. We must embrace a ‘do-tank’ philosophy and get to work creating and building the solutions from the land that lead to abundance and resilience.
“An Agricultural Renaissance strategically aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will deliver the abundance and multiple benefits to society, the environment and the economies of the world. Agriculture in all its different forms and sizes must be successful in order for the world to thrive,” Kawamura said.
UN offers stark warnings and practical remedies in Global Land Outlook 2
The way land resources – soil, water and biodiversity – are currently mismanaged and misused threatens the health and continued survival of many species on Earth, including our own, warns a stark new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
It also points decision makers to hundreds of practical ways to effect local, national and regional land and ecosystem restoration.
UNCCD’s evidence-based flagship Global Land Outlook 2 report, five years in development with 21 partner organizations, and with over 1,000 references, is the most comprehensive consolidation of information on the topic ever assembled.
It offers an overview of unprecedented breadth and projects the planetary consequences of three scenarios through 2050: business as usual, restoration of 50 million square km of land, and restoration measures augmented by the conservation of natural areas important for specific ecosystem functions.
It also assesses the potential contributions of land restoration investments to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, human health and other key sustainable development goals.
Warns the report: “At no other point in modern history has humanity faced such an array of familiar and unfamiliar risks and hazards, interacting in a hyper-connected and rapidly changing world. We cannot afford to underestimate the scale and impact of these existential threats.”
“Conserving, restoring, and using our land resources sustainably is a global imperative, one that requires action on a crisis footing…Business as usual is not a viable pathway for our continued survival and prosperity.”
GLO2 offers hundreds of examples from around the world that demonstrate the potential of land restoration.
Says Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD: “Modern agriculture has altered the face of the planet more than any other human activity. We need to urgently rethink our global food systems, which are responsible for 80 percent of deforestation, 70 percent of freshwater use, and the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss.
“Investing in large-scale land restoration is a powerful, cost-effective tool to combat desertification, soil erosion, and loss of agricultural production,” he continued. “As a finite resource and our most valuable natural asset, we cannot afford to continue taking land for granted.”.
Half of U.S. Designated as Experiencing Severe, Extreme or Exceptional Drought
Drought is having a huge influence again this year on U.S. crop production. According to the May 31 U.S. Drought Index Monitor, much of the High Plains and most of the western United States were reported as undergoing some level of drought, ranging from moderate to severe to extreme to exceptional. Other regions of the nation have undergone seriously dry weather, though they gained some relief from rains in recent weeks.
Current hot spots include Nebraska, where 83 percent of corn planted lies in counties with some level of drought designation, including 48 percent in areas said to be undergoing exceptional drought. Some 62 percent of the Kansas corn crop was undergoing some elevated dry conditions, including 25 percent in exceptional drought. Up to 87 percent of the Texas corn crop has also been impacted by drought ranging from nearly half designated as extreme (40 percent) and exceptional.
More than half of all U.S. wheat acreage is in designated drought areas. Wheat states like Nebraska, Montana and Colorado have seen drought designations across nearly 100 percent of their growing areas. Kansas, the nation’s leading wheat producer, has seen two-thirds of its crop acreage designated as drought-stricken.
Nearly all of California, with the world’s fifth-leading agriculture economy, is experiencing severe and, to the largest degree, exceptional and extreme drought.
The state’s ag sector employs more than 420,000 people and generates more than $50 billion annually. While California still holds a large share of U.S. dairy and beef cattle production, farmers there have steadily shifted to fruits, nuts and vegetables, which generate more profit and jobs per unit of water.
But scientists say that with little rain falling during the usually precipitous first three months of the year, the state is experiencing its driest period ever. The ultimate impact of this year’s drought has yet to be determined, but it is expected to challenge the 2020 and 2021 water years, which constituted the second-driest two-year period since records began in 1895.
Farmers are expected to leave some irrigated cropland unplanted, idling less profitable crops. The Public Policy Institute of California, which attributes the heightened dry spells to climate change, says nearly 400,000 acres were fallowed last year due to the drought conditions then. A similar shutdown is expected this year.
EIA Data Confirm Record Ethanol Blend Rate in 2021
Data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that ethanol comprised a record share of America’s gasoline in 2021, averaging 10.34 percent of every gallon sold. The final EIA data for 2021 also confirmed a significant rebound in both ethanol production and consumption after COVID-related shutdowns ravaged the fuel market in 2020.
The Renewable Fuels Association said the EIA data also underscore ethanol’s ability to diversify the domestic fuel supply and keep pump prices in check.
EIA’s data show that the U.S. ethanol industry produced 15.02 billion gallons (bg) in 2021, an 8-percent increase over 2020 and the largest annual volume growth since 2010. Domestic ethanol consumption grew even faster, jumping 1.26 bg over 2020 levels – a 10-percent increase. Meanwhile, U.S. ethanol exports dipped slightly from 2020 levels, but still registered as the fifth highest on record.
Industry officials contend the EIA data showing some 600-700 million gallons of ethanol were consumed in blends other than E10 in 2021 show the industry can go well beyond the “E10” blend wall often cited by the oil industry in its criticism of the ethanol blending mandate under the Renewable Fuels Act. They also say industry has enough unused production capacity to entirely replace U.S. crude oil imports from Russia lost after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. Fires Four Times Larger, Three Times More Frequent Since 2000
Fires have gotten larger, more frequent and more widespread across the United States since 2000, according to a paper from the University of Colorado. Researchers say recent wildfires have stoked concern that climate change is causing more extreme events, and their work published in Science Advances shows that large fires have not only become more common, they are also spreading into new areas, impacting land that previously did not burn.
The authors of the paper suggest that to adapt and build resilience to wildfire impacts, planners and stakeholders must account for how fire is changing and how it is impacting vulnerable ecosystems and communities.
The paper from the Earth Lab, a designated research initiative with the university’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), says recent wildfires have stoked concern that climate change is causing more extreme events.
“Projected changes in climate, fuel and ignitions suggest that we’ll see more and larger fires in the future, said Virginia Iglesias, a research scientist with CIRES’ Earth Lab and lead author of the paper. “Our analyses show that those changes are already happening.”
To evaluate how the size, frequency and extent of fires have changed in the United States, Iglesias and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 28,000 fires that occurred between 1984 and 2018 from the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) dataset, which combines satellite imagery with the best available state and federal fire history records.
The team found that there were more fires across all regions in the contiguous United States from 2005 to 2018 compared to the previous two decades. In the West and East, fire frequency doubled, and in the Great Plains, fire frequency quadrupled. As a result, the amount of land burned each year increased from a median of 1,552 to 5,502 square miles in the West and from 465 to 1,295 square miles in the Great Plains.
The researchers also took a closer look at the most extreme fire events in each region. They found that in the West and Great Plains, the largest wildfires grew bigger and ignited more often in the 2000s. Throughout the record, large fires were more likely to occur around the same time as other large fires.
“More and larger co-occurring fires are already altering vegetation composition and structure, snowpack and water supply to our communities,” Iglesias explained. “This trend is challenging fire-suppression efforts and threatening the lives, health and homes of millions of Americans.”
Other News We Are Reading
The EPA has filed notice in the Federal Register seeking comment on a proposed judicial consent decree that would require EPA to propose the 2023 Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) by no later than September 16, 2022 and finalize it no later than April 28, 2023. EPA’s notice comes after Growth Energy filed a notice of intent to sue and a complaint in federal district court in response to the agency’s violation of the deadlines to issue RVOs established by Congress for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. (Read more…)
Environmental, economic, and energy security. EPA is required to set the 2023 volume requirements at least 14 months prior to the calendar year in which it is to take effect.
Solar power generation in the United States rose by 25.23 percent in 2021, making it the country’s fastest-growing source of electricity, while renewables accounted for 21.02 percent of all electricity and look set to surpass coal in terms of total production in 2022. The figures, released in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly report, slightly exceeded predictions made by the EIA at the start of the 2021 but were on par with mid-year data, according to a Sun Day Campaign analysis of the data. The EIA now expects renewables’ share of U.S. electrical generation to exceed 22 percent this year and surpass that of coal. (Read more…)
A research team led by the University of Oklahoma, with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and collaborators at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, have created simulations from coupled climate and hydrologic models that demonstrate widespread increases in the occurrences of flash flooding events across most of the United States. The research team used climate simulations and modeling of a 30-year period, 2070-2100, to predict the location and degree to which flash floods are likely to occur. The effect – what the researchers call “flashiness” – describes the likelihood of weather conditions that can cause rapid rainfall and lead to flash flooding. They found that, if climate-warming emissions continued at their current rate, flooding events would become 7.9 percent “flashier” by the end of the century, meaning heavy rainfall events are likely to occur quickly and in concentrated areas that are likely to lead to flooding. (Read more…)
Partner News and Events
ACE Conference to Explore Key Industry Issues August 10-12
The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) 35th annual conference coming up August 10-12 in Omaha is slated to cover a range of topics to inform ethanol producers and the broader industry about the current market and policy dynamics at play. The conference will also equip producers with practical insights they can implement to improve their operations.
This year’s general session coverage will feature new uses and markets for ethanol, farm-to-biofuel carbon market opportunities, trade developments, and an energy market outlook, as well as insight on the ethanol retail marketplace and future demand opportunities. Further, more intimate breakout sessions will cover the latest in technology updates, strategic planning advice, and ways for ethanol plants to lower their carbon score and raise their profitability.
More specifically, sessions will include information on sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen market potential, carbon capture and storage, getting the most out of your coproducts – like distillers corn oil, carbon intensity scoring, hiring practices and labor challenges, IT security, driving value to agriculture through low carbon solutions, tax credits in new project investments, and more. ACE has also invited key officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to speak during the event.
“Central to the discussions we plan to host this year is how can we set the industry up for success to continue playing an integral role in the climate conversation and evolving to take advantage of new technologies and markets,” said Katie Muckenhirn, Vice President of Public Affairs.
More on the agenda will be released over the coming months. Online event registration is open and reduced rate reservations are available at the event hotel: the Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District. ACE welcomes supporters to reserve an event sponsorship. All conference details can be found at ethanol.org/events/conference.
2022 Sustainable Agronomy Conference Virtual-Event Series
The Agronomy Society of America will hold its 2022 Sustainable Agronomy Conference this year through a series of four two-hour video sessions, with one session staged each week and scheduled for July 19, July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9.
Registration to the event, which is free, is available to members HERE and includes access to all session recordings through Oct. 9.
Society officials say the conference will provide Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs), Agri-Sales Professionals, and growers with the opportunity to more fully understand and implement sustainable agronomy in the field. Opportunities will be offered to learn the drivers, economics, agronomics, environmental benefits, and implementation techniques of sustainable crop production. Economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable agronomy will be considered.
Officials also say that unlike other sustainability or agronomy conferences that simply describe broad research findings, the conference this summer will be action-oriented, practical, interactive, and applied with a focus on decision support and execution.
“You will leave the conference with information that you can confidently recommend to clients and implement in the field,” the society says. “Speakers, moderators and panel participants will have a deep understanding of ‘why’ and ‘how’ to implement sustainable agronomy.
The conference offers eight continuing education units (CEUs).
Fertilizer Canada Annual Conference Set for Aug. 15-17
Fertilizer Canada is extending an invitation to members to the organization’s 75th Annual Conference, set for Aug. 15-17 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Delegates attending will come from all aspects of the fertilizer industry and related sectors. The conference offers a chance for collective collaboration on current hot topic issues and upcoming opportunities for positive growth, organizers say.
On Monday, Aug. 15, members are invited to participate in an excursion to Peggy’s Cove, a must-see, iconic destination with a lighthouse sitting out on Peggy’s Point. The attraction is known for its quaint fishing village, the beautiful lighthouse, and the smooth, wave-sculpted granite rocks. The trip will conclude with lunch in Halifax.
The North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) is a farmer-led platform for inspiring, educating, and equipping agricultural partners to innovate effective local adaptations that sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience, and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainable development.
NACSAA reflects and embraces all scales of agriculture in Canada, Mexico and the United States, ranging from small landholders to midsize and large-scale producers. NACSAA encourages climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of North American agriculture to changing climate conditions and works to achieve this goal through three complementary strategies: 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.
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