Growing Returns

Flooding threatened this North Carolina town’s infrastructure, so it turned to nature to help.

Like many cities across the country, Hendersonville, North Carolina, is grappling with how to protect its residents and infrastructure from extreme weather events, which have increased fourfold nationally since 1980.

The western part of the state, where Hendersonville is located, recorded its wettest period on record between 2015-2018 [PDF]. This influx of water accelerated streambank erosion and threatened the city’s critical sewer and drainage infrastructure, which was not built to withstand the new normal of extreme rainfall. Read More »

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Could catalytic capital help shape the agriculture of tomorrow?

Investing in climate-smart agriculture is a hot topic. Startups in plant-based meats and dairy alternatives are taking the market by storm. Major food companies are setting sustainability targets and investing in soil health practices.

Yet farmers face poor farm economic conditions stemming from trade disputes, COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, and increasingly frequent, extreme and destructive weather events.

Farmers across the U.S. have felt the pain of extreme weather in 2020, from the derecho that wreaked havoc in the Midwest to the destructive wildfires that continue to rage out West. (Photo credit: National Weather Service).

It’s clear that more innovation is needed to make the food system fit to face 21st century challenges, and fast. Catalytic capital can help.

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A Craigslist for water trading? Learn how this new water management platform works

Eric Averett, General Manager, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District

Eric Averett is general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County, California, which is one of 21 regions required by the state to balance groundwater demand and supply within 20 years under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Rosedale is home to approximately 27,500 acres of irrigated cropland and 7,500 acres of urban development. Groundwater demand there exceeds supply by approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year.

To inform landowners about their water budgets, Rosedale partnered with EDF, Sitka Technology Group, WestWater Research and local landowners to co-develop a new online, open-source water accounting and trading platform.

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3 takeaways from my testimony to Congress on climate-related financial risks to U.S. agriculture

Highlight: EDF’s Maggie Monast testified at a hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, “Creating a Climate Resilient America: Strengthening the U.S. Financial System and Expanding Economic Opportunity.” Watch here.

It’s becoming impossible to ignore the risks that climate change poses to financial markets, including those that support U.S. agriculture.

Increased temperatures and more frequent droughts and extreme precipitation events threaten crop productivity across the nation. In 2020 alone, we have seen ample evidence of these impacts, including destructive storms in the Midwest, hurricanes along our coasts, and wildfires and smoke in the West.

These physical risks of climate change create risks to the U.S. financial system, which was the topic of last week’s hearing held by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, entitled “Creating a Climate Resilient America: Strengthening the U.S. Financial System and Expanding Economic Opportunity.”

I testified to the committee on climate risks to the agriculture finance system — and opportunities to build resilience. Read More »

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How female farmers are conservation leaders on the farm and beyond

Surveys show that women own or co-own nearly half the farmland in the Midwest but are often under-represented in leadership positions, including in policymaking bodies, financial institutions, and other agricultural agencies and institutions.

The Women, Food and Agriculture Network is working to change that, giving women the resources and connections they need to be effective practitioners and supporters of sustainable agriculture. Read More »

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How groundwater managers can avoid the courts as they divvy up water

One of the biggest challenges to implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act hovers around this two-part question:

Who gets to pump groundwater and how much do they get to pump? Or, put another way, who must cut their groundwater use and by how much? Read More »

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What you need to know about new FEMA funding for community resilience

A new Federal Emergency Management Agency-run program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, will provide millions of dollars to cash-strapped local and state governments and federally recognized Indian tribes for projects that build resilience to protect people and property before the next disaster.

FEMA has $500 million available for BRIC projects, with $20 million set aside for federally recognized tribes. The agency will accept applications from September 30, 2020 to January 29, 2021 and requires a current FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plan for eligibility.

Here are three lessons to consider as you develop your BRIC proposal. Read More »

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Why does the West keep burning? Here are 3 key factors.

“Climate change sucks.” This was the text I sent to a friend last Monday as we griped about the many fires burning throughout the West — from Oregon and Washington to Idaho and my home state of California. The fires have filled the air with visible smoke and invisible fine particulate matter making it unsafe to spend any significant time outside.

My quick text exchange was not the right forum for a detailed articulation of the many causes of this year’s heavy fire season. Neither is the politicized verbal tennis match that has taken off on Twitter and in the news.

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Measuring irrigated water use has been a challenge for decades. This new tool will change that.

Over my nearly 30 years of working on water issues in the West, I have repeatedly thought there has got to be a better way to measure how much water is used to grow the food we eat. This data is surprisingly complex, and up until now, it has been expensive to calculate.

That’s why it’s difficult to contain my excitement as this “better way” comes to fruition in the form of a new web platform called OpenET that EDF is developing with NASA, Google, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey and dozens of other partners.

Using publicly available data and satellite imagery, OpenET will for the first time make data on how much water crops use widely accessible at no to low cost to farmers and water managers large and small in 17 western states. OpenET will go live next year. Read More »

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Financial leaders release climate risk report calling for agricultural resilience

A report released today by a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System, examines the threat that increasingly extreme and volatile weather poses to the stability of financial markets, including U.S. agricultural markets. Representatives from EDF served on the 35-member panel.

The report found climate risks pose a wide range of threats to U.S. agriculture — including heat stress on farmworkers, livestock and crops, soil and water quality degradation, more frequent supply chain disruptions and productivity declines. Read More »

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