Solutions from the Land's 'Farmer-First' Climate Smart Agriculture Principle

The award of a $500,000 grant from the prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation to Solutions from the Land (SfL) this week underscores the priority and responsibility that SfL takes in putting farmers first in developing practices and policies that can meet and address societal needs and challenges.

The grant money will be used to design and begin implementing a three-to-five year climate smart/resilient agriculture action plan designed to help Upper Midwest farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions, improve the resiliency of their operations and further enable agricultural landscapes to deliver multiple food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystems services from the land.

SfL, a collaboration led by an acclaimed group of active farm, forestry and conservation leaders, will link with ‑ and build on ‑ the multi-stakeholder partnerships that have been developing in the region around water quality, food policy and sustainable agriculture projects. The initiative aims to connect leading innovators in dialogue and planning to improve climate resiliency, while achieving nutrition, energy, environmental, health and economic goals.

The project, to be undertaken in collaboration with The Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation, aims to help ag producers deal with unpredictable shifts in regional weather events and patterns that can result in declines in crop and livestock productivity due to pollination problems, weeds, new and old diseases, insect pests, extreme temperatures and other climate change induced stresses.

Much of SfL’s climate smart agriculture work stream evolved from efforts of a 25x’25 work group charged with addressing the need for adaptation to the extreme weather that comes with climate change and the development of practices that ensure strong ag production and mitigate the causes of a changing climate.

More recently SfL’s efforts in this space have been focused on what has become globally recognized as the three pillars of climate smart agriculture:

1. sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods (i.e. sustainable intensification)

2. adapting and building more resilience; and

3. delivering ecosystem services and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions.

SfL leaders attended and participated in events in Paris last December that resulted in a major agreement reached by more than 190 countries to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to prevent temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, an increase that a consensus of scientists around the world say will result in catastrophic consequences. More than 170 nations signed the formal agreement at the United Nations on Earth Day in April. And now negotiations move this week to San Francisco, where energy ministers from the world’s largest economies are gathering to discuss specific ways to meet the goals.

SfL leaders are in San Francisco as well, advocating for land based solutions to global challenges including near-term and lower-cost contributions that agriculture can make in international efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

There are other interests in San Francisco pitching ideas on agriculture and climate change. But it is important that negotiators understand that to be successful in developing the tools and policies that will advance clean energy and address the challenges of a changing climate, they must – like SfL ‑ give top priority to agricultural producers and the ideas and contributions the sector can offer. The reason why is simple: It is farmers, ranchers and foresters who will ultimately use the tools needed to combat climate change, yet still meet the demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel that will be generated by a global population expected to grow more than 30 percent – up to 9.7 billion people ‑ by 2050.

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