A Vision for Climate-Smart Agriculture

A recent National Climate Assessment issued by a research coalition of 13 federal agencies confirms that climate change is affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy and society, including agriculture.

Extreme drought, flooding, destructive storms, abnormal daytime and night time temperatures, along with increases in invasive species and pest pressures, all exacerbated by climate change, have severely impacted U.S. agricultural production over the past decade, and could have a broad negative impact on the nation’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners as the decades pass. As climate change can compromise the viability of the 25x’25 goal, the Alliance has made adaptive management a top priority.

As this is a global challenge, 25x’25 leaders are in the Netherlands this week, working with farm, academic, conservation and government partners from across the globe to develop a strategy for developing and implementing climate smart agriculture principles and practices.

Climate smart agriculture has three basic pillars:

  •  Increasing agricultural production in a way that is not only sustainable, but equitable to producers around the world.
  •  The development of adaptive management practices that improve the resiliency to changing conditions.
  •  The reduction of climate-changing emissions from agricultural operations.

These pillars of climate smart agriculture being discussed during the meeting this week in The Hague closely align with the principles advocated by 25x’25. They require greater attention to production and conservation systems, research, and risk management tools and programs, as well as the identification of necessary enabling policies.

Most importantly, the knowledge gained in developing the means to implement these principals must be shared. Climate change will challenge agriculture and forestry on all fronts, having an impact on all types of operations, whether they are big, small, organic, conventional, irrigated or rain-fed.

And it’s important to understand that all stakeholders are in this challenge together. Government cannot be relied upon to deliver all the solutions needed to ensure food security in a rapidly growing world. Achieving the goals of increasing production, adapting practices and reducing emissions in a changing environment will require an across-the-board, multi-stakeholder approach.

What is the path forward? A forum is needed where farmers, ranchers, foresters and their government, academic and value chain service partners can share and discuss new adaptation practices, tools and production systems designed to improve resiliency and mitigate the current and future risks of changing climatic conditions.

That is a platform that the 25x’25 Alliance is prepared to support. The principles of climate smart agriculture parallel closely with agricultural adaptation recommendations developed by a 25x’25  work group, a collaboration of agriculture, forestry, business, academic, conservation and government leaders who are exploring the impacts of a changing climate and other variables on U.S. agriculture and forestry.

The work group’s most recent product, “Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: Adaptation Recommendations”, presents a variety of pathways for building and strengthening resilience to climate change in our nation’s agriculture and forestry system in the areas of research, production systems and practices, risk management, decision tools and outreach. The report was issued as the beginning of a national dialogue on the steps needed to prepare for an uncertain future.

The 25x’25 Alliance invites all stakeholder groups and interests to join in a continuing exploration of not only how agriculture and forestry can survive changing climate conditions, but adapt to them in a way that keeps farms, ranches and forestlands viable and capable of meeting the demands that will be imposed by a burgeoning global population.

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