I’m spending time on this year’s National Ag Day thinking back gratefully to a recent meeting I had with farmers.
I was attending the annual farm exchange program offered through the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, which facilitates learning opportunities on California farms. This year’s program brought together state environmental policy professionals and growers from the Central Coast, an epicenter for growing the nation’s specialty crops, such as lettuce, broccoli, and strawberries. My aim was “to see sustainability through the eyes of farmers.” We toured various agricultural operations, had thoughtful discussions, and stayed with host families in the local farm community.
My host was Erin Amaral, who manages 1,170 acres of vineyards near San Luis Obispo. Erin and I got along immediately – and our conversations kept coming back to one central tenet: farmers and environmentalists want the same things. Read More
Also posted in Food, Partnerships, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged almonds, bipartisan, california, California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, carbon, Central Coast, central valley, clean water, common ground, cover crops, herbicides, National Ag Day, orchard, pest control, pesticides, soil erosion, soil health, specialty crops, vineyard, water quantity
Photo credit: aleks.k
Americans’ fondness for milk, yogurt, cheese and juicy burgers requires a huge livestock industry, with nearly 90 million head of cattle in the U.S. in any one year. All those cows mean significant methane emissions.
With estimates from the United Nations that methane accounts for 44 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and new determination – including legislation in California – to reduce methane emissions from farms, we need to figure out how to quantify and then reduce those emissions.
Yet measuring methane emissions has been an elusive science. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that packs a powerful punch: Methane has 84 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide in the short term. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged biogas, california, cows, dairy, digesters, enteric fermentation, greenhouse gas emissions, livestock, manure management, methane
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently released an intriguing report on how the United States can transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 while continuing economic growth. The report gives a starring role in this job to agricultural lands.
“Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization” outlines a 3-pronged strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent while accelerating job-creating innovation. Calling each strategy “critical,” CEQ first lists the familiar call to transition to renewable and low carbon forms of energy.
The second key strategy, however, is less often discussed: the potential of cropland and grassland soils, as well as forests, to store and sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 annually. The report – informed by decades of scientific research – describes the opportunities to explore in this area. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged American Carbon Registry, carbon sequestration, climate action reserve, conservation, cover crops, economic growth, farming, fertilizer optimization, grasslands, grasslands protocol, greenhouse gas emissions, livestock, market-based, nitrous oxide, no-till, ranching
Arkansas rice farmers participating in agricultural carbon markets. Credit: Adam Jahiel
Early adopters of innovative land-based conservation measures are rarely given an adequate reward for participating in agricultural carbon markets. But that’s all about to change, thanks to a nearly $1.2 million USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) that will leverage private capital investment into agricultural carbon offset practices and ensure that producers are paid for their efforts.
These efforts will guarantee the sale of at least 100,000 tons of credits over the next three years. Here’s how it will work. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Partnerships Tagged agricultural carbon markets, agricultural offset projects, arkansas, BlueSource, california, cap and trade, carbon credits, carbon markets, Carbon Offsets, CIG grant, ClimeCo, conservation, conservation innovation grant, Encourage Capital, grasslands protocol, investment, Natural Resources Conservation Service, private capital, purchase agreement, USDA, USDA NRCS, Working Lands Investment Fund
Heartland Ranch in Colorado. Credit: Nicole Rosmarino
One year ago this month the Climate Action Reserve, the premier carbon offset registry for the North American carbon market, approved the voluntary grasslands protocol: a landmark opportunity for ranchers to get paid for keeping their land as grazing lands, versus converting it to crops.
And now, the protocol is underway. Today, the Reserve officially listed the first two grassland conservation carbon projects– the first step in the process towards generating carbon credits for landowners.
The Southern Plains Land Trust, directed by Nicole Rosmarino, enrolled more than 15,000 acres in Southeastern Colorado in the first two projects. She plans to enroll 7,600 more acres in an additional project in 2017.
Even though ranchers lose the opportunity to convert land for crop production, the protocol provides landowners with a guaranteed revenue source in addition to what they earn ranching on the land. Nicole will work with a project developer to monitor and report on the status of the Southern Plains Land Trust’s grasslands. We expect they’ll start earning credits in early 2017 that can later be sold on the North American carbon market.
Here’s why you can get paid for protecting grasslands, too. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Fertilizer, Habitat, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged agriculture, carbon market, climate action reserve, climate change, colorado, conservation, croplands, dust bowl, farming, farms, grasslands, grasslands protocol, grazing, grazing lands, Great Plains, ranchers, Southern Plains Land Trust, USDA, USDA NRCS
A team of researchers spent seven years dissecting, analyzing and reporting on California’s nitrogen cycle, and the results are eye-opening.
Nearly 2 million tons of nitrogen are imported into the state each year. Almost a quarter of it is lost through leaching into groundwater – with runoff from cropland accounting for nearly 90 percent of this leaching. Excess nitrates in drinking water can cause health problems when consumed by at risk populations. Four percent of the state’s nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
But the California Nitrogen Assessment (CNA), released by UC Davis’ Agriculture Sustainability Institute, also provides a never before seen level of detail on nitrogen movement in the state. There’s no silver bullet for reducing environmental impacts while keeping growers profitable. Yet information is power and the more we know, the more we can tailor and prioritize solutions.
The UC Davis team investigated various political, social and economic ideas for reestablishing our state’s nitrogen balance. Two of the most promising solutions for California agriculture to address what the CNA calls “critical control points” include enhancing fertilizer efficiency and expanding carbon markets for agriculture. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Ecosystems, Fertilizer, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged agriculture, Almond Board, almonds, california, California Air Resources Board, Carbon Offsets, climate change, crop advisors, environmental defense fund, farmers, farms, fertilizer, GHG mitigation, growers, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, SARE, sustainable agriculture, UC Davis
My home garden, near San Francisco.
When I tend my garden at home near San Francisco, the words of writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry echo in my head: “We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?”
I do everything I can to conserve. I grow food that has a minimal impact on the environment, I use a drip irrigation system, I compost to minimize waste and collect shower water to reuse on my plants.
In my professional life, I work with large-scale farmers to reduce their environmental footprint while protecting their livelihoods. My job sheds light on the importance of ensuring food security by looking closely at how and where we grow food.
I’m driven by what I learned growing up in a rural farming town, and from my years in the Peace Corps in Mali. These experiences are the reason I work to preserve the complexity of the agro-ecosystems around me.
Also posted in Supply Chain
One year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced 10 “building blocks” for climate-smart agriculture and forestry, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 120 million metric tons by 2025.
The agency’s focus on partnering with farmers and ranchers – as well as with the private sector – was a huge step in the right direction toward widespread implementation of climate-smart agriculture techniques and programs.
Tomorrow, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce another big investment in conservation stewardship and climate-smart agriculture approaches to advance the building blocks agenda. I’ll be joining Secretary Vilsack to talk about EDF’s partnerships within the agricultural supply chain and our collaborative approach to ag sustainability.
Working across public-private sector lines, through a collaborative approach, and with the entire ag supply chain is the only way to bring sustainability to scale while protecting farmers’ livelihoods.
Here’s what key sectors of the ag supply chain are doing – and can do – to improve water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase agricultural resilience. Read More
Also posted in Climate, Ecosystems, Fertilizer, Food, Partnerships, Supply Chain, Sustainable Agriculture Tagged agriculture, Campbell's Soup, Carbon Offsets, climate change, conservation, corn, cover crops, environmental defense fund, farmers, farming, fertilizer, Field to Market, food production, food security, General Mills, Kellogg's, nitrogen, nutrient efficiency, Smithfield Foods, soil health, SUSTAIN, Unilever, United Suppliers, USDA, Walmart