Growing Returns

Crop-switching in the megadrought: Can guayule help Arizona farmers use less water?

This year, farmers in Pinal County, Arizona, will lose two-thirds of their irrigation water from the Colorado River because of a historic shortage declaration triggered by the driest period in more than 1,000 years. And within two years, they will be completely cut off from the Colorado River.

Some farmers are responding by fallowing fields. Others are selling their land to solar companies. And then there’s Will Thelander, a farmer who partnered with EDF, Bridgestone Americas and the University of Arizona to test a new crop that uses half as much water as the alfalfa he previously grew.

Crop-switching to a desert shrub called guayule used to produce rubber is one of just many strategies that will be needed in Arizona and other regions to adapt to water scarcity and maintain agricultural economies in a new era of aridification. However, it’s not nearly as simple as just planting different seeds in the ground.

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How credit and climate change collide for Black farmers in Georgia

Earlier this week, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund hosted a listening session for its Black farmer-members in Georgia in collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund. The federation is a nonprofit cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives based primarily in the Southern states. In the listening session, 15 farmers discussed their ongoing concerns about access to credit and climate change impacts, as well as how coalition building and advocacy can support them in continuing to farm. Read More »

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How regional accounting can boost the integrity of the voluntary soil carbon market

As enthusiasm for agricultural soil carbon as a climate mitigation strategy grows, carbon registries and private companies are developing carbon crediting protocols to bring soil carbon credits into the voluntary market. Credits need to accurately represent net greenhouse gas reductions and be equivalent to each other.

An analysis by Environmental Defense Fund and Woodwell Climate Research Center found that this isn’t the case across the board, which creates uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace.

In a new paper published in Science, scientists at these organizations recommend a regional framework to boost market integrity and support farmers, governments and the private sector in delivering high-quality credits.

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California’s new farmland repurposing program requires community engagement. This guide describes how.

Many regions in California are embarking on a new era of water and land management strategies as local agencies implement sustainability initiatives and climate change intensifies droughts and water scarcity.

However, too often low-income rural communities have had little opportunity to influence land and water decisions that directly impact — and often harm — them, resulting in such outcomes as wells drying up and limited access to parks.

California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program aims to ensure these communities as well as small-scale farmers are more involved in land and water use planning by making their engagement a requirement for funding recipients.

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How banks can move toward net zero agriculture portfolios

Banks representing over 40% of global bank lending have joined the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative’s Net Zero Banking Alliance and committed to align their lending and investment portfolios with zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By 2024, participating banks with substantial loan portfolios in agriculture will need to set net zero targets for the sector and rapidly embark on reducing emissions.

For this to be possible, banks must accurately measure the emissions they finance in agriculture. This is a particular challenge in agriculture, a sector that includes a vast array of different crops and livestock, farm sizes, and access to tools and technology. Read More »

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The sea is rising faster than ever. How can we prepare?

NOAA and interagency partners just released an updated technical report, showing that sea levels will rise by up to a foot nationally by 2050, and potentially by up to two feet by 2100 depending on rates of emissions.

While the findings are stark, we have an urgent window of opportunity to increase protection for communities, natural resources and infrastructure across our coasts and watersheds.

Here are five recommendations for how government leaders can increase the resilience of coastal communities before the worst effects of sea level rise take hold.

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Fostering innovative finance in the agriculture value chain

Companies throughout the agriculture value chain have set commitments to reduce the environmental impacts of agricultural production. They’re now engaged in the hard work to achieve those goals by developing programs to increase farmer adoption of conservation practices.

As value chain sustainability programs mature, there is increasing attention on the financial barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture at scale — and questions about how financial innovation can overcome those barriers.

A recently released report, Financial Innovations to Accelerate Sustainable Agriculture: Blueprints for the Value Chain, provides companies throughout the food and agriculture sector with 12 tangible innovative finance mechanisms and value-added incentive strategies to support U.S. farmers in scaling conservation practices and delivering sustainable outcomes. The blueprints encompass innovations for transition risk sharing, pay for performance, leasing incentives and more.

Here are three key insights for those looking to take action. Read More »

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Gov. Newsom proposed nearly doubling funds for a new farmland repurposing program. Here are 4 ways it can help people and wildlife.

This month Gov. Gavin Newsom took another important step in supporting the San Joaquin Valley and sustainable groundwater management by proposing $40 million in additional funds for the new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program, which he and the Legislature created last year with $50 million in initial funding.

This voluntary program aims to help farmers reduce groundwater use by repurposing farmland to other uses that deliver new benefits, including outdoor recreational spaces, wildlife habitat, renewable energy, soil health and groundwater recharge.

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Arizona water is at a crossroads. Will the Legislature respond?

The Arizona Legislature opened this week with the state facing significant water insecurity. Water has climbed to one of the top three concerns of Arizona voters, who are getting engaged in water issues and will be watching the Legislature closely this session as an election year looms large.

EDF Action and our Water for Arizona Coalition partners are focusing on the following five priorities for this year’s legislative session to respond to residents’ concerns and help ensure water security for Arizona.

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Virginia must stay in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to successfully address its flood crisis.

In 2020, Virginia made history as the first southern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a highly successful, multistate carbon emissions cap-and-invest program for the electricity sector.

In its first year, the commonwealth netted $228 million through auction proceeds, with half going toward low-income energy efficiency and weatherization programs and 45% dedicated to Virginia’s statewide Community Flood Preparedness Fund. The fund has made tens of millions of dollars available for local governments and tribes to build capacity, plan and implement flood resilience projects.

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