Promoting Sustainable Agriculture Solutions to Climate Change

Reposted from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

On June 25, the one-year anniversary of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) announced the availability of a document that articulates principles and recommendations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to consider as it implements conservation programs under the 2014 Farm Bill that address the nexus between climate change and agriculture.

USDA has launched a climate change initiative, which includes new Regional Climate Hubs and science-based guidelines for cover crop management, among other new tools and programs, but NSAC urges USDA to also look to existing solutions that can be achieved through farm bill program implementation.

In particular, low external input, biologically diverse agricultural systems, including certified organic agriculture and crop-livestock integrated farming systems, play an important role in addressing climate change.  In addition to their ability to reduce GHG emissions and sequester carbon, these complex systems produce numerous co-benefits that will help farmers build resilient and viable systems of production.

The NSAC document is based on a set of principles for addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation through NRCS conservation programs, and includes specific recommendations for actions NRCS can take to integrate these principles with conservation program development and delivery.

These include:

  • integrating climate and energy issues into conservation planning by incorporating a climate adaptation and mitigation component that specifically addresses on-farm benefits, including energy savings;
  • updating the Conservation Practice Standard GHG Ranking Tool to reflect the full scope of climate benefits that a practice offers by assessing both adaptation and mitigation benefits; and
  • prioritizing enrollment in the new easement program and targeted conservation program for those projects that provide the greatest climate benefits, both in terms of carbon sequestration and avoided transportation- and development-related GHG emissions.

NRCS is currently writing program rules that address the changes to conservation programs directed by the 2014 Farm Bill.  The agency says they are likely to release the rules by late summer.

The full document is available here.

The press release is available here.

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