WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2015 -- Leaders of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) told policy makers and others attending the international climate talks in Paris today that farming can provide impactful and measurable contributions to global efforts to reverse climate change.
During a panel discussion, the U.S. farm leaders called on conference participants to embrace what they call the three pillars of climate smart agriculture -- sustainable intensification of production, adaptive management and resiliency, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. They also said attendees should adopt the policies and mechanisms that promote and incentivize the agricultural practices that mitigate emissions of the GHGs that are increasing global temperatures.
"Most of the discussion about agriculture's role in climate change has been narrowly focused on actions growers can take to reduce direct emissions that are generated through the production of food, feed and fiber," Fred Yoder, chairman of the NACSAA Steering Committee, told those attending the event. "What needs to be emphasized is adaptive management strategies, and the scope and magnitude of additional mitigation services that agriculture can deliver."
Yoder, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, cited among those mitigation services the sequestration of carbon in soil through practices like conservation tillage and cover crops. He also spoke of efforts like the 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship initiative, a fertilizer industry program that emphasizes using the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time and with the right placement, all to improve sustainability and soil carbon retention, while increasing productivity and profitability. In addition Yoder said, the reduction in GHG emissions provided by biofuels when compared to petroleum-based fuels, is also a benefit to countering climate change that agriculture provides.
Yoder said the Paris conference should direct its science advisory body to establish agricultural sequestration protocols similar to a forestland program first established in 2008.
"It has taken several years for countries to gain interest and ownership in the forestlands program and it will take time for countries to develop their agricultural protocols and record their baseline levels," Yoder said. "So it's critical that (the conference) use the opportunity to begin this process for agriculture now, including the development and harmonization of measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) standards."
Furthermore, he said, "there needs to be a better integration of production, conservation, sustainability and greenhouse gas initiatives."
A.G. Kawamura, a farmer and co-chair of Solutions from the Land, the host of NACSAA, said the conference was a “significant event,” but he said the real work will begin when the gathering adjourns and that the alliance was broadening to focus on post-conference implementation.
A former secretary of the California Department of Agriculture and Food, Kawamura cited examples of progress to date, including the U.S. dairy industry's voluntary goal to reduce GHG emissions for fluid milk by 25 percent by 2020 and its promotion of anaerobic digesters on operations to process waste and generate renewable energy. Other examples cited by Kawamura included the U.S. production of ethanol and other lower carbon fuels, which have reduced emissions from the U.S. transportation sector over
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