Growing Returns

Largest ecosystem restoration project in U.S. history provides model for climate adaptation

In the wake of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, President Biden’s administration has turned its sights from rescue to resilience in the newly announced American Jobs Plan that would invest $650 billion in rebuilding infrastructure nationwide. 

This proposed legislation is intended not only to mitigate significant and structural economic challenges, but also to repair and strengthen the systems on which we depend. This includes natural infrastructure to make our communities and ecosystems more climate resilient. 

On our coasts, revitalizing our economy must include building long-term resilience to climate change, sea level rise and hurricanes. In Louisiana, we already know exactly the kind of projects that the American Jobs Plan should support.       Read More »

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3 ingredients for success in soil health

This blog was originally posted on Soil Health Partnership’s blog.

Profitable conservation systems don’t look the same on every farm. Growers must implement different strategies to address their specific needs, thanks to a wide range of variables including soil type, moisture availability, equipment and labor. However, just because every farmer takes a slightly different approach to soil health doesn’t mean there aren’t some consistent success factors.

In our recent report, Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line (developed in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund and the agricultural accounting firm K·Coe Isom), we discovered that farmers who felt their soil health practices were making a difference — both in the data and anecdotally — took some similar approaches. These three “ingredients for success” increased their chances for achieving profitable conservation systems. Read More »

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Farmers’ bottom lines at risk as growing conditions change

Iowa currently finds itself in a “Goldilocks climate,” with just the right measure and timing of humidity, rainfall and heat that help make the state a national leader in corn and soybean production. However, new research shows that climate change threatens to upset this balance.

Small shifts in rainfall and temperature can have considerable impacts on crops and farmer livelihoods. To better understand how these shifts could impact farmers, Environmental Defense Fund partnered with K·Coe Isom, an agricultural accounting and business advisory firm, to produce an in-depth report that quantifies the potential localized economic impacts from these shifts that Iowa corn and soy farmers could face as soon as the next 10 to 20 years.

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4 ways North Carolina’s Legislature can build lasting flood resilience

As North Carolina continues to recover from a string of flooding and storm disasters, legislative leaders have recognized the opportunity for the state to not just recover from recent storms but to rebuild better before the next disaster.

This week, Environmental Defense Fund released a white paper [PDF] recommending four specific policy actions that would better protect residents and businesses from more severe flooding, create jobs and increase climate resilience.   

These four policies will also help the state better compete for federal funding, build capacity within communities and equitably align solutions for those who are disproportionately impacted by disasters.   Read More »

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California is facing another drought, but I’m still hopeful. Here are 3 reasons why.

It’s a daunting time to be working on water in California.

The Sierra snowpack measurement came in today at 59% of average statewide, making this the second dry winter in a row. The drought conditions led state and federal officials to announce last week painful water cuts for farmers and for municipal water systems that are already sending requests to customers to conserve water.

It’s disheartening to envision farmers again trying to make do with very limited supplies; salmon stranded in warm, dwindling rivers; and cities facing water cutbacks while wondering if the next wildfire will erupt in their neighborhood.

Read More »

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Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale.

By some estimates, the amount of farmland that will have to be taken out of production to balance groundwater demand and supply is equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park — a transition that could serve a huge blow to the agricultural economy, rural communities and the environment.  At the same time, farmers are also facing steep declines in surface water supplies from rivers and melted snowpack, largely driven by climate change, as they learned just this week.

Read More »

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Is California making progress on the Human Right to Water? Some answers on World Water Day.

World Water Day is a time to come together as a global community to reflect on the importance of water and its value to people and ecosystems — to celebrate collective victories advancing water stewardship and to draw attention to the change still needed.

Nearly 1 million people lack access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water in my home state of California — and more than 2 billion worldwide. Each number represents a person: a mother, a father, a child, a loved one. These numbers must change. Read More »

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Experience plays a role in cover crop profitability

This blog was originally posted on Soil Health Partnership’s blog.

When it comes to cover crops, patience combined with realistic expectations is often the name of the game. Unlike the immediate cost savings that often come with conservation tillage, cover crops have annual costs as well as efficiencies and soil health benefits that can take time to achieve.

These are some of the reasons why in our report, Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line, we found experienced cover crop users were more profitable when compared to new adopters. Read More »

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4 lessons learned from nitrogen balance pilot projects

Environmental Defense Fund led several pilot projects in the 2019-2020 growing season to better understand how different farm management practices impact nitrogen balance, or N balance, a robust and practical proxy to measure agriculture’s climate and water quality impacts.

EDF scientists assessed real-world, in-field data for 16 management practices and N balance scores from more than 500,000 acres of corn across nine Midwestern states. Here are four actionable insights. Read More »

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Understanding the impact of conservation tillage on operating expenses

This blog was originally published by Dr. Maria Bowman on Soil Health Partnership’s blog.

When farmers consider implementing a soil health or conservation practice on their farm, one question they inevitably ask is: what will the financial impacts be?

In an effort to answer this question, we recently released Conservation’s Impact on the Farm Bottom Line — a report developed in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund and the agricultural accounting firm K·Coe Isom — to better understand the benefits, opportunities and limiting factors associated with common conservation practices. Read More »

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