Droughts, fires, floods . . . climate instability is forcing U.S. farmers and ranchers to face increasingly frequent and intensifying natural disasters that threaten their land and their livelihoods—and increase food insecurity for everyone.
A growing number of farmers and ranchers understand that the more organic and regenerative farming and grazing practices they deploy, the more climate-resilient their operations become.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) knows it, too. But instead of increasing funding for programs to help farmers adapt to climate change—and help them become part of the climate solution—the Trump administration is proposing drastic cuts to those programs.
TAKE ACTION: Ask your members of Congress to help organic farmers by supporting the Agriculture Resilience Act!
Agriculture has more potential to solve the climate crisis than any other sector of the U.S. economy.
Now there’s a bill in Congress that would recognize this potential.
The Agriculture Resilience Act aims to make agriculture climate-neutral by 2040 by funding a transition to the regenerative organic agriculture practices needed to ultimately reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, stabilize our climate, begin to reverse global warming—and at the same time, make U.S. farms more resilient to extreme weather events.
The inconvenient truths about agriculture in the U.S. today is that industrial agricultural practices are shrinking the capacity of food-producing lands to sequester carbon, and worse, they are emitting more greenhouse gas pollution than the land can absorb.
According to the 2019 Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, U.S. cropland is a carbon sink that in 1990, drew down 40.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMT CO2 Eq.).
By 2017, cropland was drawing down only 10.3 MMT CO2 Eq.
If this downward trend continues, cropland could go from being a carbon sink to a source of carbon in a decade. This has already happened to U.S. grasslands which in 1990 sequestered 4.2 MMT CO2 Eq. but are now merely carbon neutral.
The Agriculture Resilience Act, introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), an organic farmer who serves on the Congressional Advisory Committee for the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal, sets clear climate goals and benchmarks, which include:
• Increase total soil carbon stocks by 0.4 percent annually. In 2015, the United Nations Year of the Soils, a coalition of governments launched a global climate initiative to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by increasing soil organic carbon to improve soil health, farm productivity and food security. The initiative gets its name, “4 per 1000,” from its goal to increase the world’s soil carbon stocks by 0.4 percent annually.
• By 2040, restore at least half of the soil carbon that has been lost in the last 300 years. Soils in North America have lost, on average, 20 percent - 75 percent of their original topsoil carbon through conversion of vast native ecosystems, including forest and prairie, to production agriculture between 1860 - 1960, exceeding carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel emissions over the same period.
• By 2040, increase to at least 75 percent the total acres of U.S. cropland covered by crops, cover crops, or residue year-round. Cover crops are currently planted on only 3.9 percent of U.S. crop land.
• By 2040, eliminate conversion of agricultural land to development, and grassland to cropping. Land in farms declined from 914,527,657 acres in 2012, to 900,217,576 acres in 2017.
• By 2040, establish advanced grazing management, including management-intensive rotational grazing, on 100 percent of all grazing land.
• By 2040, increase acreage under crop-livestock integrated management by 100 percent over 2017 levels.
• End the building of new or expanded waste lagoons for concentrated animal feeding operations.
• By 2040, convert at least two-thirds of wet manure handling and storage to alternative manure management. Methane emissions from the liquid systems employed by the largest factory farms are responsible for 61.7 MMT CO2 Eq. That’s 9.4 percent of total methane emissions from anthropogenic activities.
• By 2040, achieve a 75-percent reduction in food loss and waste. In the U.S., the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars' worth of greenhouse gas emissions.