SfL’s Global Work Moves Ahead, Examines Pandemic in Promoting SDGs
SfL’s work stream for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) continues to grow as the now co-joined global issues of climate change, widespread hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic are spotlighting the need for transformational changes in the world’s food systems.
In July, senior advisors and farmer envoys recently recruited to help guide the organizations’ pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals held their inaugural meeting to discuss the platforms through which SfL is participating, including the UN Climate Convention, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Food Systems Summit, among others.
A key area of focus for the meeting was the process and a framework for a report under development that will share specific pathways and pragmatic action steps farmers can take to deiver high value solutions in support of SDGs. The report will incorporate case study examples of real farmer/rancher experiences, likely reinforced with video testimonials of producers showcasing their work, challenges and accomplishments. The aim is to describe innovative and integrated land management system/practices that produce multiple outcomes/benefits.
To be written with a famer’s voice, the paper will detail what ag producers are experiencing, how they are innovating to meet challenges and what more is needed.
Additions to the planned report content include more emphasis on the role of technology and innovation and its availability, access and acceptability; barriers/enablers to scale; and the potential of terrestrial solutions for food system change. Also, healthy diets, fair value chains and food and waste loss will be noted as “building blocks” in the report.
The SDG drafting team met earlier this month to finalize the report framework outline and discuss writing assignments. The goal is to have a first draft ready for review by Labor Day and to release the report just ahead of the FAO Committee on Food Security meeting in mid-October.
SfL Planning Side Event at February CFS Meeting
Work continues on a side event being organized by SfL for the February Committee on Food Security (CFS) meeting in Rome. The side event aims to spotlight climate smart agriculture systems and practices farmers are using to deliver high-value solutions to improve food and nutrition security. The practices simultaneously enhance health and livelihoods, improve the environment, enhance biodiversity and deliver high-value terrestrial solutions to climate change.
Focusing on outcomes, our farmer and rancher presenters will showcase how they are harnessing innovation and technology, coupled with conservation and agroecology systems and practices to meet the SDGs.
The side event, which is being co-organized with the Global Farmers Network and the Global Dairy Platform, will target a diverse range of stakeholders actively seeking to shape the way agriculture is performed across the planet. Stakeholders include farmers (with a special emphasis on women and youth), value chain partners, civil society, government and agencies that could benefit from solution pathways that achieve multiple objectives.
By sharing knowledge and real-world experiences and outcomes, the panel members and participants can learn from each other, converge and forge census on pragmatic, proven and innovative agricultural solutions that benefit producers, the public and the planet.
A number of counties have agreed to co-host the event, including Argentina, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States
Elsewhere on the global stage, in response to an invitation from FAO for case studies, an “entrepreneurship, technology and innovation” study has been submitted featuring SfL farmer envoy and cranberry grower Adrienne Moller.
The study, which was produced by Moller and Natural Resource Solutions Project Associate Cara Urban, details the climate smart agriculture challenges and adaptations Adrienne has made in her berry operation, along with her experiences in the Ocean Spray Academy, which aims to develop future cooperative and community leaders and innovators of all genders.
New Report: Economic Cost of Climate Change Strains U.S. Economy
Billion-dollar weather disasters fueled by climate change are becoming more frequent and more devastating to state and local economies, according to a report by Datu Research commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund, a NACSAA partner organization.
The report, Climate Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies, quantifies the economic cost of specific extreme weather disasters on Americans today, including in specific states, as well as likely future costs if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and global temperatures continue to climb. Each of the weather events detailed in the report caused damages equaling or exceeding $1 billion in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Iowa, among others.
“COVID-19 and recent climate disasters have shown that we must step up investment in preparedness now, instead of waiting for the next crisis to hit,” said Elgie Holstein, Senior Director for Strategic Planning, Environmental Defense Fund. “Mounting climate impacts are leading to a perfect storm, where federal, state, and local governments will be staggered by mounting disaster assistance demands while simultaneously trying to recover from deep recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Faster action to reduce climate change and more proactive investment in resilience are crucial to safeguard our future – and to help places and people adapt and succeed in the face of tremendous change,” Holstein said.
According to the report, which consolidates information from leading journals, government datasets and other key sources, both the incidence and cost of extreme weather events are on the rise.
Since 1980, the United States has seen a four-fold increase in the annual number of severe weather disasters, including hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other events examined in this report. Those costs are putting a growing strain on the ability of federal and state agencies to respond to disasters at the same time that they are fighting to prevent the country from plunging further into a long-term, deep recession. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that since 2005, the federal government, including FEMA, has spent at least $450 billion on disaster assistance.
The report and accompanying documents include recommendations and lessons learned that can help ensure states have the resources they need to handle these disasters in the years to come and can rebuild better. The fiscal pressures are particularly acute this year: States are facing record budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some anticipating revenue losses of over 20 percent and making budget cuts of equal magnitude to address this shortfall.
As Congress debates how to recover from the pandemic and assist states, businesses, and the nation’s workers, it must simultaneously invest in efforts to mitigate costly climate-fueled disasters.
Such steps include:
- Protecting vulnerable communities and building resilience by emphasizing preservation and restoration of natural features along our coasts and prioritizing pre-disaster mitigation. This can include creating a Resilient Communities Loan fund program and expanding current FEMA efforts such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
- Committing to immediate climate action to move the United States to a 100% clean economy no later than 2050, including through investment in cleaner transportation, manufacturing, buildings, energy and more.
Even in the depths of a global pandemic and recession, climate change has not stopped, the EDF warns. “The atmosphere is still warming, sea levels are still rising and storms are still brewing. As the report makes clear, the need for government aid is far outpacing available resources, and the problem is only getting worse. The time for action is now.”
USDA to Invest up to $360 Million in Partner-Driven Conservation
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is inviting potential conservation partners to submit project applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS will award up to $360 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.
USDA is a NACSAA partner.
“RCPP brings an expanded approach to investing in natural resource conservation that empowers local communities to work with multiple partners and agricultural producers to design solutions that work best for them,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr.
Partners may request between $250,000 and $10 million in RCPP funding through this funding announcement. Partners are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding in an amount equal or greater to the NRCS investment.
Eligible lead partners are encouraged to apply. Funding is open to private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities, among others. The full list of eligible entities is available in the RCPP funding announcement.
First authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has combined nearly $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in non-NRCS dollars to implement conservation practices across the nation. There are 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. Successful RCPP projects provide innovative conservation solutions, leverage partner contributions and offer impactful and measurable outcomes.
NRCS requested public comment on the RCPP Critical Conservation Areas and their associated priority resource concerns as part of a review allowed by the Farm Bill once every five years. This funding announcement introduces CCA changes that resulted from the review:
- The California Bay-Delta and Columbia River Basin CCAs have been combined into the Western Waters CCA, which also encompasses the Klamath River Basin and the Puget Sound Basin.
- A new CCA – Northeast Forests and Waters – has been added to the roster. This CCAs priority resource concerns include water quality and wildlife habitat. The boundaries of the CCA encompass Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
USDA is now accepting proposals for RCPP through the RCPP portal . Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 4, 2020. For more information, view the Application for Program Funding on grants.gov.
A webinar with general program information for RCPP applicants is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug 27, 2020. Visit the RCPP website for information on how to participate.
ACE Marks Anniversary of RFS Anniversary
The head of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), a NACSAA partner organization, marked the anniversary of legislation enacting in 2005 the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by releasing a statement that cites the policy’s success over the past 15 years.
But ACE CEO Brian Jennings also slammed what he said was the “mismanagement” of the RFS program by the EPA.
“Congress was right to enact the Renewable Fuel Standard…because it has indeed resulted in cleaner air, lower priced fuel for motorists, and economic development in rural America,” Jennings said. “Since the RFS was signed into law, the ethanol industry has experienced improved market share and a growing number of co-products, as well as technology innovations that have driven efficiencies and shrunk the carbon footprints of plants.
But he said the EPA has manipulated the program to benefit fossil fuel refiners “who have taken the RFS on a joy ride which has limited the program’s upside potential.”
A flurry of small-refinery exemptions (SREs) to the RFS biofuel blending requirements was essentially rejected by a federal appellate court. But the agency has now invited refiners to submit waiver requests for years going back to 2011 – a move the agency believes will bring their waivers in compliance.
While EPA invited refineries to submit the SRE requests earlier this year, the applications initially go to the Energy Department. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said the gap SRE applications were sent to the agency by DOE only in recent weeks and that no decisions have been made on any of them. President Trump said this week he would “speak to” EPA officials about the industry’ concerns.
Last month, the agency disclosed that it has received 59 retroactive SRE petitions, or so-called “gap filings,” for RFS compliance years 2011 through 2016. While EPA has yet to act on those petitions, Jennings says the agency has yet to offer answers regarding the waivers and “continues to delay applying the precedent” set by the Tenth Circuit Court nationally and no decision on their status.
But biofuel industry leaders cite EPA’s readiness to grant dozens of SREs previously submitted before the appellate ruling came down eight months ago.
Jennings said that since the 10th Circuit Court issued it decision, the agency has taken no steps to comply with the court ruling to limit SREs, but instead “seems merely interested in providing refiners yet another escape hatch in the form of the now nearly 60 retroactive waiver requests.”
The ACE CEO said that in addition to constantly defending and protecting the RFS, his group “has been laying the strategic groundwork necessary to leverage ethanol’s low carbon value in the market through new clean fuel policies at the state and federal level.”
Jennings also said the EPA has “punted” on issuing its proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2021, nor has it addressed the loss in fuel demand to ensure the 2020 RVOs are met this year.
ABC Applauds Policy Promoting On-Farm Energy Before House Ag Panel
Iowa Smart Agriculture (IASA) Work Group Co-Chair Bryan Sievers, who is vice chair of the American Biogas Council, a NACSAA partner, testified at a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture hearing on the value of biogas systems and federal programs that enable their development.
In his testimony submitted to the ag panel, which held a hearing on the impacts of on-farm energy production on farm income and rural communities, Sievers said that policies the committee formulate, particularly within the farm bill’s energy title, drive the production of on-farm energy, including anaerobic digesters, and “have been incredibly successful in growing the on-farm and rural economy.
“Because of the research, loan and grants provided by these programs, biogas and biotechnology companies are developing new technologies and feedstocks for the conversion of biomass for the production of renewable energy, advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, renewable fertilizers and biobased products,” he said.
An Iowa farmer, Sievers is owner and operator of Sievers Family Farms, as well as the award-winning AgriReNew biogas system, which recycles beef cattle manure, corn stover and local food processing waste into renewable electricity and soil products.
His testimony included the importance of how several programs in the 2018 Farm Bill, including the Renewable Energy for America program (REAP) and the Environmental Qualities Incentives Program (EQIP), as well as other federal initiatives like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), tax credits and research support on-farm energy production and growth of the biogas industry.
He offered a number of recommendations to enhance the farm bill energy programs, including the “widely popular” Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). Sievers called for $20 million be appropriated annually for REAP through 2023, the level authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. Sievers noted that REAP has provided benefits to the full agricultural value chain, from producers and co-ops, to biotechnology and clean energy companies operating across rural America. He said more than 13,000 projects across all 50 states have received awards since its inception in the 2008 Farm Bill, leveraging more than $3 billion in private investment.
“REAP is one of the rural economy’s best methods to drive growth in America’s energy infrastructure and resiliency,” Sievers testified. “The program has been instrumental in helping deploy biogas systems throughout the rural economy, allowing agricultural producers, through the use of digesters, to make products from waste streams – manure and crop residues – that would otherwise be viewed as an environmental challenge.”
Also testifying on behalf of the ABC was Mike McCloskey, founder and chairman of Fair Oaks Farms, an Indiana dairy operation that has been responsible for the construction of multiple biogas systems that recycle dairy manure into renewable biogas and soil products.
McCloskey said biogas production “is representative of the comprehensive systems approach we are taking on our farms to work toward a goal of net-zero emissions.”
Biogas systems, he added, close disconnected carbon and nutrient cycles on a dairy farm, while offering producers an additional revenue stream.”
McCloskey said a well-designed biogas system can convert manure into electricity, bedding, fertilizer and compost, all while reducing methane and carbon emissions, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus loading are reduced.”
He touted the “Net Zero Initiative” (NZI), an industry-wide effort to help U.S. dairy continue to make progress toward greenhouse gas emissions reductions and significant improvements in water from field to farmgate through new technologies and practices in feed production, cow care, energy efficiency and manure management.
McCloskey said NZI “is about each dairy farm – regardless of size, region, or production style – contributing what it can, where it can. No individual farm will be held to the Net Zero target, yet all will play a part. I, and my fellow dairy farmers, look forward to working with Congress, USDA, DOE, and EPA to further the environmental and economic sustainability of U.S. dairy.”
Bayer Aims to Make Carbon Sequestration Ag’s Newest Crop Opportunity
Bayer, a NACSAA partner, has launched a new initiative the company says offers agriculture another solution to positively impact climate change.
Bayer is now rewarding farmers in the United States and Brazil for generating carbon credits by adopting climate-smart practices – such as no-till farming and the use of cover crops – designed to help agriculture reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Bayer’s Carbon Initiative is the result of years of work validating a science-based approach and methodology to make this happen, the company says. The initiative recognizes the pivotal role growers and their land can play in helping to create lasting, positive environmental impacts and is the latest in the company’s sustainability commitments specifically aimed at reducing field GHG emission by 30 percent in 2030.
“Farmers are passionate environmentalists and stewards of the lands they farm,” said Brett Begemann, Chief Operating Officer of Bayer’s Crop Science division. “Their lives and livelihoods depend on the weather, and they are some of the first to be affected by drought, flooding and extreme conditions. If anyone has a vested interest in battling climate change, it’s farmers and we are committed to developing new business models like this unique Carbon Initiative to help them in that fight.”
Soil is one of the most effective ways of sequestering carbon. Incentivizing farmers to embrace no-till, precision nitrogen use or cover crops helps further sequester carbon into the soil, reduce fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gases. While today farmers get rewarded solely for their food, feed and fiber production, those participating in the Bayer Carbon Initiative will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their best farm management practices and other sustainability efforts as well.
The program’s 2020/2021 season will include approximately 1,200 farmers in the United States and Brazil. In both countries, farmers will receive assistance in implementing climate-smart agricultural practices and Bayer will acquire the carbon removals created by those practices at transparent prices. The company is also collaborating with partners such as Embrapa in Brazil to build a viable carbon market for farmers.
Bayer plans to expand the program in the U.S. and Brazil to other farmers and then later into other world regions with tailored approaches that will allow growers to choose what climate-smart practices and implementation works best for them. In Europe, the company is exploring how the approach could be adapted as part of the European Green Deal. In Asia-Pacific, Bayer says its goal is to help increase productivity for smallholder farmers as well as reduce methane emissions from rice farming.
“We are excited to partner with farmers through this new Bayer Carbon Initiative,” Begemann added. “We’re honored to take this major step with farmers to create a carbon-zero future for agriculture, an important legacy that we can create with farmers to leave to the next generation.”