December 2020

Welcome to NACSAA News, a monthly compilation of CSA-related developments. NACSAA in Action features the latest on the Alliance’s activities; “Featured News,” which offers some of the biggest CSA-related stories of the past month; “Other News We Are Reading,” a listing of news stories from other sources we think you will find of interest; and “Partner News and Events.” We hope this newsletter will serve to keep you, your members and other constituencies fully engaged in the growing development of climate-smart agriculture policy, programs and practices. Your feedback is welcome and appreciated. To subscribe, email info@SfLDialogue.net.
NACSAA Members in Action

Farmers Represented at Global Climate Workshop

Lois Wright Morton, a NACSAA Steering Committee member and SfL board member, advised fellow delegates participating in a two-day UN-sponsored workshop not to take a singular approach when considering the socioeconomic and food-security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.

Morton, who was the only farmer participating in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture event, used her closing message on Dec. 2 to other workshop participants to stress the need to do more than tell farmers how to farm- “they need to listen to farmers and find out what they need.”

“There are many on the outside looking in offering advice to farmers without acknowledging the complexities, risks, and uncertainties we face in producing the food and ecosystem services that benefit us all and making a living for our families,” she told representatives from countries across the world, as well as from a dozen or more UN agencies and observer bodies, which included SfL.

Morton, who grows blueberries and other specialty crops in Ohio, cautioned fellow workshop participants who are unfamiliar with the hard work farmers must put in to manage the complexities, risks, and uncertainties that are daily events, not to become too obsessed with a singular, agroecological approach but to be open a variety approaches that can solve the climate and food security issues the world is currently facing.

While she expressed her appreciation for a keynote speaker’s articulation of agroecology and what that approach offers to farmers, she urged the KJWA delegates to be careful not to single out one approach as the best approach. Agroecology “is one of the many innovations farmers and scientists are experimenting with.

“The COVID pandemic has showed us that we need all kinds of innovations and diversity of productions systems and practices in order to give farmers capacity to deal with the uncertainties that changing climate, volatile markets, and health and social conditions bring,” she said.

Morton, who is Professor Emeritus with the Department of Sociology at Iowa State University, said the diversity of agricultural landscapes and ecosystems that farmers manage requires a variety of tools and approaches best suited to their resources and their unique situations and circumstances.

She cited as “important” a statement Tuesday from a workshop keynote speaker, Maryam Rezaei, a renowned expert with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Systems and Food Safety Division, acknowledging that “the solutions to food insecurity are beyond food production.”

Morton said it will take integrated efforts using many innovative approaches across many sectors “if we are to achieve zero hunger goals and the 13 other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that farmers and agriculture are partners in solving.”

The SfL board member and NACSAA representative told other workshop participants that “the call for a systemic approach to this integration (of solutions) means finding root causes of food insecurity; especially focusing on providing farmers and rural peoples the capacities, tools, technologies and knowledge to move beyond subsistence livelihoods to ensure food security for their households and non-farm households.”

She said success in addressing the problems will require blended and diverse approaches – including agroecology, sustainable intensification, and other approaches found to be successful and enable achievement of the multiple SDGs. Morton stressed that farmers are not just producing food, but also providing ecosystem services such as soil health, clean water and reduced emissions.

Iowa Smart Ag Work Group Drives Roundtable on Soil Health, Bioeconomy

Farmers in the Iowa Smart Agriculture (IASA) Work Group used a roundtable co-sponsored by SfL and the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions to talk about what they see as primary barriers and opportunities for scaling up soil health practices and bioenergy systems that enhance farmer profits, improve water quality and sequester carbon.

The roundtable, held earlier this month virtually, drew 80 participants for the soil health segment and more than 60 for the bioeconomy discussion. The event produced a rich and wide-ranging exchange of information.

On another front, the Work Group met via Zoom Dec. 9 and assessed the progress achieved over the past year and map out plans for 2021. Among the topics discussed were the path forward for their cover crop/biogas knowledge sharing project with Iowa State’s C-CHANGE (Consortium for Cultivating Human And Naturally reGenerative Enterprises; enabling policies for CSA outcomes; mechanisms for securing feedback and sharing knowledge; and plans for constructing an action plan to achieve their vision.

Also, IASA Co-chair Kellie Blair, a soybean, corn, cattle and pig farmer in Webster County, is featured in a story appearing online in The Iowa Dish, an e-newsletter from the Iowa Farm Bureau. “Sustainability on the Farm” cites the Blair and her husband’s achievement of assorted sustainability goals by adopting new practices, such as precision farming, cover crops and soil testing to ensure that the right amount of nutrients are applied to a field to meet the crop’s needs.

The article cites the important role cattle also play in helping the Blairs meet their sustainability goals. They use cattle manure as a natural fertilizer for their corn and soybean crops. Their cattle then consume the corn and hay that are grown on the Blair’s farm, allowing them to know exactly what the cattle are being fed and where the feed came from.

Florida CSA Work Group Sets Plan for 2021

The Florida Climate Smart Agriculture (FLCSA) initiative, cosponsored by the University of Florida and Solutions from the Land has forged consensus on a 2021 work plan that will include:

  • Quantifying and valuing ecosystems services using artificial intelligence
  • Proactive communications outreach on ecosystem services well-managed farms, ranches and forests can deliver with properly structured enabling polices and markets
  • Securing support and funding to conduct an agricultural climate vulnerability assessment for Florida agriculture
  • Developing a minority/limited resource engagement work stream

The FLCSA will also explore opportunities for rural landowners to participate in distributed generation solar energy projects, especially those that provide equity opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

SfL Blog Calls for State-Level Vulnerability Assessments For Better Climate Policy and Program Decisions

Solutions from the Land published a blog Dec. 16th calling on policy makers to include all three pillars of Climate Smart Agriculture when discussing agriculture’s role in taking on climate change, and not just that pillar that addresses reduced emissions.

The blog acknowledges the attention President-elect Biden is giving the growing menace – naming a White House climate “czar,” vowing to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement, and his transition team’s introduction of a “Climate 21” document offering dozens of recommendations for a rapid-start, whole-of-government climate response coordinated by the White House and accountable to the President.

Noted were dozens of climate-related recommendations among the document’s 19-page segment devoted to the Department of Agriculture, including a call for the USDA to partner with farmers, ranchers and forest owners to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) through carbon sequestration and emissions reductions.

But the initiative also underscores public discussion of agriculture’s role in combatting climate change that tends to focus on reducing emissions, an emphasis that overshadows some of the equally important steps that must be taken for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to be successful going forward. These include sustainably intensifying production of all the goods and services that come from the land, as well as adapting and improving operational resilience against the changing climate.

Taken together, carbon emission reduction, sustainable intensification and operational resilience make up the three pillars of Climate Smart Agriculture – the integrated approach to managing working landscapes (cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries) that addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change.

The blog also notes the failure of Climate 21 to address the need for federal and state governments to team up and prioritize the development of state-level agricultural climate change vulnerability assessments, which are a useful planning tool in increasing an agriculture sector’s adaptation to climate change. The tool can improve the decision-making process of planners in generating policies or programs that may increase the resilience of agricultural systems during the occurrence of hazardous events.

The agriculture sector is among the fields of focus in vulnerability assessments that share knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response options at the global level through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the national level through the quadrennial National Climate Assessments; and regionally, through initiatives such as the USDA Climate Hubs. Adding state-level assessments would enable a more focused examination of each state’s unique assets and the challenges its farmers, ranchers and foresters will face in a changing climate.

The blog also notes California has been demonstrating a path to state-level vulnerability appraisals, citing the state’s publication of its Fourth Climate Change Assessment in 2018 (the first came out in 2006). State officials say the document translates climate science into useful information for action, presents findings in the context of existing knowledge, and includes both strategies to adapt to climate impacts and key research gaps needed to spur additional progress on safeguarding the state from climate change. The agricultural assessment provides information to build the sector’s resilience to climate impacts, including temperature, wildfire, water and sea level rise.

The blog also notes SfL-supported work groups that are calling for state-level vulnerability assessments in Florida, Iowa and Ohio (see Page 32), and calls on other states to follow their lead. An approach recommended in the blog is for each state’s Department of Agriculture, land grant colleges, and regional USDA Climate Hubs to join together in constructing state by state vulnerability assessments. The collaborative effort could work towards developing a more targeted approach that serves the growing needs of state and local-level decision-makers, and would better equip them to provide the policy tools those in agriculture need to take on climate change.

NACSAA Partners Join EPA, DOJ in Opposing Refiner Request For Supreme Court Review of Tenth Circuit Decision on RFS Exemptions

In a filing submitted Dec. 8, the Department of Justice recommended against Supreme Court review of the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling earlier this year that invalidated several small refinery exemptions issued by EPA under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The DOJ filing is in response to a petition submitted in September by HollyFrontier Corporation and CVR Energy, in which the oil refiners ask the Supreme Court to review the Tenth Circuit’s January decision.

The petitioners in the original Tenth Circuit Court challenge – including NACSAA partners, the American Coalition for Ethanol, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Farmers Union, along with the Renewable Fuels Association – welcomed the government’s brief opposing Supreme Court review of the appeals court decision. The four trade groups later filed their own briefs echoing the points raised by DOJ and adding others in opposing review of the Tenth Circuit’s decision.

In January, the Tenth Circuit invalidated three exemptions EPA had issued in 2016 and 2017 after finding that EPA had no authority to extend exemptions that had already lapsed in prior years. The appeals court also held that EPA based the exemptions on economic hardships that were not caused by compliance with the RFS.

The Tenth Circuit also found EPA’s actions to be arbitrary and capricious because the agency failed to reconcile how any small refinery could suffer a disproportionate economic hardship when EPA had steadfastly maintained that all refineries could recover their compliance expenses.

The petition submitted by the refiners asked the Supreme Court to review only the Tenth Circuit’s finding that exemptions cannot be granted unless they are extensions of previously existing exemptions; they did not seek review of the other Tenth Circuit holdings.

In its brief, DOJ told the Court that the issue did not warrant the high court’s review and stated that the refiners’ petition asking for review “should be denied.” Citing the standards established by the Supreme Court, the government conceded that the Tenth Circuit’s decision did “not meet this Court’s ordinary criteria for granting certiorari.”

In response to the DOJ brief, the ACE, NCGA, NFU and RFA offered the following statement:

“We agree with the well-reasoned position of the Justice Department and concur that no further review of the Tenth Circuit decision is warranted. The Tenth Circuit got it right when it concluded that the temporary small refinery exemptions Congress provided could not be extended if they had previously expired.

“But the more important and immediate point is that the petition from HollyFrontier and CVR falls far short of the standards the Supreme Court has established for its review of lower court decisions. As underscored by the DOJ brief, the Tenth Circuit decision does not conflict with any decision from the Supreme Court or another court of appeals, which is a common prerequisite for Supreme Court review. In addition, the DOJ correctly noted that further review is not warranted because the issue is already the subject of pending litigation in the D.C. Circuit, filed by our four groups and others.

“Finally,” the four trade groups said, “we agree with DOJ that further review would be inappropriate because even if the Supreme Court ruled in the refiners’ favor on this specific issue, it would not change the ultimate outcome of the underlying Tenth Circuit decision, since two of the three remaining holdings of that case were unmentioned in the refiners’ petition.”

Meanwhile, ethanol industry leaders say a COVID-related aid package under consideration in Congress at press time must include help for the sector, citing findings that ethanol demand fell by 2 billion gallons from March through November of this year, a loss of $3.8 billion in revenues and a 700-million-bushel drop in corn used for feedstock.

Compounding the industry’s woes is the implementation by Brazil of a 20-percent tariff on ethanol imports after negotiations between U.S. officials and Brazil fell through. U.S. ethanol shipments to Brazil have fallen to 4 million gallons since May, while Brazilian exports of ethanol to the United States and what U.S. producers call its unfettered market have totaled some 96 million gallons.

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Featured News

Climate Change Exacerbates Biodiversity Loss

A considerable number of existing and post-2020 biodiversity targets adopted and proposed by international organizations are at risk of being severely compromised due to climate change, even if other barriers such as habitat exploitation are removed, argue the authors of a study of an analysis published in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research confirms global warming accelerates the loss of biodiversity. But it also shows that measures to protect biodiversity may also mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The authors suggest that flexible approaches to conservation would allow dynamic responses to the effects of climate change on habitats and species.

About a million plant and animal species are endangered worldwide. At least 13 of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations, however, depend on biodiversity, including species diversity, the genetic diversity within species and the diversity of ecosystems.

Biodiversity regulates fundamental processes, such as soil formation and water-, trace-gas-, and nutrient cycles, therefore contributes notably l to regulating the climate. The continued loss of biodiversity makes humankind face ecological, social and economic problems.

“Apart from the over-exploitation of natural resources on land and in water, or environmental pollution, climate change also causes loss of biological diversity. This impact will increase in future,” says Almut Arneth, professor and climate researcher at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Arneth led scientists from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Japan, who analyzed the so-called “Aichi” targets for the worldwide protection of biodiversity adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biodiversity. The team says most of these targets will be missed.

In addition, the researchers analyzed the set of revised biodiversity protection targets currently negotiated by the parties for the time after 2020, which are to be reached by 2030 or 2050. They found that many existing or proposed targets are at risk due to global warming, even if the mean global temperature increase would remain at the lower limit of projections.

“It certainly is a big challenge, but also an important opportunity to better handle on the political level the interactions between climate change and biodiversity loss, and to better coordinate the biodiversity targets with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals,” Arneth said.

The biodiversity targets proposed should therefore consider climate change much more explicitly, she said.

Arneth says, for example, a biodiversity target for nature reserves must consider the fact that composition and growth of vegetation will change with climate change and that certain species of plants and animals will either migrate or be threatened, if climatic conditions are changing.

The study underscores the demand to quickly and significantly reduce human-generated greenhouse gas emissions and halt climate change. The research also shows that measures to protect biodiversity would contribute to climate protection.

“Better coordination of political agreements and scientific findings may accelerate urgent decarbonization of economy and ensure slowdown of climate change by biodiversity protection measures,” Arneth said.

Temporal Crop Diversity Stabilizes Agricultural Production

While greater crop diversity in agriculture is seen as a stabilizing factor for food security in the face of increasing climate change, crop diversity alone is not sufficient, say researchers coordinated by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). The experts say a difference in crops temporal production patterns is also essential.

The findings come as scientists grapple with a major challenge facing humanity – securing sufficient food supplies around the globe, especially in light of the predicted increase in the world’s population to almost ten billion people by 2050 and the effects of climate change.

[Crop diversity is a key factor in securing agricultural production. Having a wider variety of crops reduces the risk of total harvest failure when certain crops are affected by plant diseases and protects against poor harvests resulting from extreme weather events, such as droughts, or pest infestation.

“However, asynchrony is at least equally important in securing production,” says Lukas Egli, UFZ agroecologist and first author of the study.

Differences in the temporal sequence in which crops are sown and harvested on arable land or the variation in phenology, i.e. differing development over time during the vegetation period, are both examples of factors that lead to greater asynchrony.

“The more heterogeneously crops are distributed in time and respond to the effects of extreme events, natural disasters and economic crises, the less the agricultural production of a country as a whole will fluctuate,” says Egli.

For example, when different types of crops become ready to harvest at the same time, the likelihood of the entire harvest being destroyed in a storm or flood is increased. Asynchrony prevents such total failure, for instance by varying sowing and harvesting times, growing crops with different climate and cultivation requirements and mixed cropping.

The analysis of data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed that India, Mexico and China are among the countries with a high level of production stability and asynchrony, whereas Russia, Australia and Argentina have a low level of stability and asynchrony.

At present, asynchrony in agriculture appears to be decreasing at the global level.

“Globalized agricultural markets allow crop failures in one region to be compensated by trade with other regions,” said says Ralf Seppelt, UFZ landscape ecologist and co-author “Trade itself is therefore a stabilizing factor and could make the cultivation of a wide variety of crops with different growth patterns seem less important.”

Nevertheless, the researchers say, countries should give greater consideration to highly diversified and asynchronous crops than they have done in the past to make food production less vulnerable to the uncertainties of the global market.

How Plants Competing for Underground Real Estate Affects Climate Change and Food Production

Plants compete for sunlight – the way they stretch upwards and outwards to block each other’s access to the sun’s rays. But out of sight, another type of competition is happening underground. Plants change their use of underground resources when they’re planted alongside other plants.

In a paper published Dec. 3 in Science, an international team of researchers led by Princeton graduate student Ciro Cabal sheds light on the underground life of plants. Their research used a combination of modeling and a greenhouse experiment to discover whether plants invest differently in root structures when planted alone versus when planted alongside a neighbor.

“This study was a lot of fun because it combined several different kinds of mind candy to reconcile seemingly contradictory results in the literature: a clever experiment, a new method for observing root systems in intact soils and simple mathematical theory,” said Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D. Petrie Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and the senior author on the paper.

“While the aboveground parts of plants have been extensively studied, including how much carbon they can store, we know much less about how belowground parts — that is, roots — store carbon,” said Cabal, a Ph.D. student in Pacala’s lab. “As about a third of the world’s vegetation biomass, hence carbon, is belowground, our model provides a valuable tool to predict root proliferation in global earth-system models.”

Plants make two different types of roots: fine roots that absorb water and nutrients from the soil, and coarse transportation roots that transport these substances back to the plant’s center. Plant “investment” in roots involves both the total volume of roots produced and the way in which these roots are distributed throughout the soil. A plant could concentrate all of its roots directly beneath its shoots, or it could spread its roots out horizontally to forage in the adjacent soil — which risks competition with the roots of neighboring plants.

The team’s model predicted two potential outcomes for root investment when plants find themselves sharing soil. In the first outcome, the neighboring plants “cooperate” by segregating their root systems to reduce overlap, which leads to producing less roots overall than they would if they were solitary. In the second outcome, when a plant senses reduced resources on one side due to the presence of a neighbor, it shortens its root system on that side but invests more in roots directly below its stem.

Natural selection predicts this second scenario, because each plant acts to increase its own fitness, regardless of how those actions impact other individuals. If plants are very close together, this increased investment in root volume, despite segregation of those roots, could result in a tragedy of the commons, whereby the resources (in this case, soil moisture and nutrients) are depleted.

To test the model’s predictions, the researchers grew pepper plants in a greenhouse both individually and in pairs. At the end of the experiment, they dyed the roots of the plants different colors so that they could easily see which roots belonged to which plant. Then, they calculated the total biomass of each plant’s root system and the ratio of roots to shoots, to see whether plants changed how much energy and carbon they deposited into belowground and aboveground structures when planted alongside neighbors, and counted the number of seeds produced by each plant as a measure of relative fitness.

The team discovered that the outcome depends on how close a pair of plants are to each other. If planted very close together, plants will be more likely to heavily invest in their root systems to try to outcompete each other for finite underground resources; if they are planted further apart, they will likely invest less in their root systems than a solitary plant would.

Specifically, they found that when planted near others, pepper plants increased investment in roots locally and reduced how far they stretched their roots horizontally, to reduce overlap with neighbors. There was no evidence for a “tragedy of the commons” scenario, since there was no difference in the total root biomass or relative investment in roots compared to aboveground structures (including the number of seeds produced per plant) for solitary versus co-habiting plants.

Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposit it in their structures — and a third of this vegetative carbon is stored in roots. Understanding how carbon deposition changes in different scenarios could help us more accurately predict carbon uptake, which in turn could help design strategies to mitigate climate change. This research could also help optimize food production, because in order to maximize crop yield, it’s helpful to understand how to optimally use belowground (and aboveground) resources.

Index Reveals Integrity Issues for Many of the World’s Forests

Only 40 per cent of forests are considered to have high ecological integrity, according to a new global measure, the Forest Landscape Integrity Index.

The Index was created by 47 forest and conservation experts from across the world, including Prof. James Watson of The University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The team’s work was published in Nature Communications.

“This extremely fine-scale analysis of the ecological integrity of the world’s forests has found that only 17.4 million square kilometers of Earth’s remaining forests – or 40 per cent of them – are considered to have high integrity,” Watson said. “And just 27 per cent of this area is found in nationally designated protected areas.”

High integrity forests are those which contain high levels of biodiversity, provide high quality ecosystem services and are more resilient to climate change.

“Many of our remaining forests have been heavily impacted by a variety of human activities, including logging, fires, hunting, wildlife exploitation and edge effects,” Watson said. “These actions damage forest integrity.

“By protecting and expanding forests with high integrity, we can help slow the impacts of climate change, preserve biodiversity, protect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and prevent future pandemics,” he said.

Watson said the index was created as a result of rapid advances in remote sensing, big data and cloud computing.

“The use of this index is critical in allowing us to locate Earth’s remaining intact forests and ensure that they are better protected but also hold nations to account for how they treat their forests,” he said.

The index shows how critical some countries are, including Canada, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea and Australia, in sustaining the world’s last large intact forests,” the researcher said.

“The fine-scale nature of the map will also allow land managers to plan activities more effectively and to monitor change over time,” Watson asserted.

Hedley Grantham, lead author of the study and WCS’s Director of Conservation Planning, said the study’s results were fundamental to talks at the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“The current draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework wisely proposes targets relating to ecosystem integrity and there has been active discussion about how this can be quantified and monitored,” Grantham said. “Using this index, we can now set ambitious policy goals to improve the integrity of forests globally.”

A New Take for the Trillion Trees Act

A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate this month – the Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act – is said by supporters to go beyond a tree-planting measure introduced in the House earlier this year by preserving environmental protections as well as supporting forests.

While there is little expectation to see action on either bill in what few weeks remain in this 116th Congress, the measures could serve to promote similar legislation in the new Congress next year.

Forests have always been important places for biodiversity, clean water and oxygen, but now more than ever, their value as important resources in the fight against climate change is recognized, says the Audubon Society, a supporter of the Senate measure.

In February, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the Trillion Trees Act in the House as an effort to find solutions to the climate crisis.

The Audubon Society commended the effort to prioritize natural solutions like planting trees, an important strategy for removing carbon from the atmosphere. However, the national conservation and bird-advocacy group said, the House bill “fell short of [our] official endorsement as it failed to provide adequate environmental protections for logging on certain priority lands, and incentivized the planting of saplings without also encouraging the protection of fully grown trees.”

The group says the measure introduced this month by Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Todd Young (R-IN) and Angus King (I-ME) addresses many of the shortcomings detailed in a letter to Congress signed in February by dozens of conservation, climate change and forestry activist organization.

“This bill better supports the preservation of old growth forests, encourages the pursuit of carbon sequestration opportunities in wetland and grassland ecosystems, and would establish a new funding mechanism to support reforestation,” the society said in a statement. “Furthermore, rather than simply counting the number of trees planted, the bill relies on a metric called ‘net carbon stock’ to ensure tree-planting efforts increase long-term carbon sequestration.

The group says natural climate solutions provide multiple benefits for people because they encourage the restoration, conservation, and proactive management of existing natural landscapes to reduce and sequester carbon emissions.

Audubon says science shows that two-thirds of North American birds are vulnerable to extinction from climate change if the current trajectory continues. The group, which also notes that North America has lost 3 billion birds since the 1970s, says policies like the Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act “present an opportunity to enhance our forests’ ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere and provide good quality habitat to iconic species…while also creating jobs across the country and protecting freshwater supplies.”

The group says the Senate bill can be part of the suite of policies needed to reach the country’s climate goals and addresses the root causes of climate change.

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Other News We are Reading

United Nations Chief Warns of a ‘Moment of Truth for People and Planet’ (Reuters)

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said Wednesday that, although the climate crisis is still worsening, he sees a “new world taking shape,” with a shifting mindset, especially among the millions of young people “pushing their elders to do what is right.” But Guterres said that, right now, the planet is “broken,” and called for an end to humanity’s “suicidal” war on nature. “This is a moment of truth for people and planet, alike,” he said. “Covid and climate have brought us to a threshold. We cannot go back to the old normal of inequality, injustice and heedless dominion over the Earth.” Although his remarks detailed the stark reality of global warming, including a litany of deadly extremes like floods, heatwaves, wildfires and droughts, the overall message was still hopeful. (Read more…)

As World Leaders Set Fresh Climate Goals, Biden Pledges U.S. Support (AP)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden pledged Saturday to rejoin the Paris climate accord on the first day of his presidency, as world leaders staged a virtual gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the international pact aimed at curbing global warming. Heads of state and government from over 70 countries took part in the event — hosted by Britain, France, Italy, Chile and the United Nations — to announce greater efforts in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming. The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump, who pulled Washington out of the Paris accord, wasn’t represented at the online gathering. But in a written statement sent shortly before it began, Biden made clear the U.S. was waiting on the sidelines to join again and noted that Washington was key to negotiating the 2015 agreement, which has since been ratified by almost all countries around the world. (Read more…)

Peterson Introduces CRP Bill to Send Message About Climate Change (Brownfield)

Outgoing House Ag Committee chairman Collin Peterson says legislation he’s introducing to expand Conservation Reserve Program acreage is a marker of how he thinks agriculture can help address climate change. The Minnesota Democrat, who was defeated in last month’s election, held a call with reporters Dec. 3. “The point of having this press conference is to point out to people that we have a program that’s successful, that is proven, that works, and I think would be the best solution for us if we want to do something about carbon sequestration and climate change. And that is CRP,” Peterson said. His proposal calls for USDA to move 50 million acres of cropland out of production and into CRP. He acknowledged the bill has no chance of passing in the current Congress. “But hopefully it’s a marker we can put out there (that) people can rally behind as people look for ways to engage agriculture in this issue. This is something that should be right at the forefront of what we look at in order to make that happen.” Peterson says there’s no better way to store carbon than perennial native grasses that take sunlight and turn it into carbon deep in the ground. (Listen to report HERE)

North American Farmers Profit as Consumers Pressure Food Business to Go Green

(Reuters)

Beer made from rice grown with less water, rye planted in the off-season and the sale of carbon credits to tech firms are just a few of the changes North American farmers are making as the food industry strives to go green. The changes are enabling some farmers to earn extra money from industry giants like Cargill and Anheuser-Busch. Consumers are pressuring food producers to support farms that use less water and fertilizer, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use more natural techniques to maintain soil quality. Some companies, like farm retailer and fertilizer producer Nutrien, are also opening new revenue potential for farmers by monetizing the carbon their fields soak up. The companies say technology is improving measurement and tracking of carbon capture, although some environmental activists question the benefit of such programs and how sequestered greenhouse gas volumes can be verified. (Read more…)

California Farmers Work to Create a Climate Change Buffer for Migratory Water Birds

(Inside Climate News)

On a warm, sunny afternoon in late November, Roger Cornwell stopped his pickup near the edge of a harvested rice field to avoid spooking a great blue heron standing still as a statute, alert for prey. He pointed to a dozen or so great egrets at the opposite end of the field as a chorus of killdeer sang a high lonesome tune in the distance. “We started bringing in the water this morning,” said Cornwell, general manager of River Garden Farms, which grows rice, alfalfa, corn, walnuts and other crops on 15,000 acres just west of the Sacramento River, in California’s Central Valley. “When we push water across a field, we’ll have tons of egrets in it because the mice and moles are being flushed.” In the Central Valley, where agricultural and urban development have claimed 95 percent of the region’s historic wetlands, flooded croplands provide food and habitat that help egrets, sandhill cranes and other iconic water birds get through the winter. (Read more…)

Co-Optima Research Determines Accurate Predictor of Fuel Performance (DOE)

As ORNL’s fuel properties technical lead for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuel and Engines, or Co-Optima, initiative, Jim Szybist has been on a quest for the past few years to identify the most significant indicators for predicting how a fuel will perform in engines designed for light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars and pickup trucks. Most passenger vehicles on U.S. highways are powered by spark-ignition gasoline engines. It’s important for automakers to know how well a fuel will perform in these engines so that future vehicles can be designed with engines that achieve higher efficiency. Co-Optima, which was formed in 2016, has focused on research to maximize fuel economy and vehicle performance through higher efficiency and increased use of biofuels, resulting in new fuel performance insights. (Read more…)

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Partner News and Events

 

U. of Minn. Seeking Participation in Short Survey Related to ‘Forever Green’

The University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences is seeking farmers – and those along the value chain who advise them – to participate in a brief survey in support of the school’s Forever Green initiative.

The university and USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) jointly created the program to develop new crops and high-efficiency cropping systems.

The survey is designed to help the school’s efforts to better communicate its work about potential solutions to the environmental and economic challenges facing farmers and the agricultural and food sector today.

The Forever Green initiative is seeking ways to:

·        Diversify economic opportunities for Minnesota’s farmers, through the production of new sources of food, feed, and high-value biomaterials, without interfering with current annual production systems.

·        Improve the condition of vital resources including water, land and biodiversity.

·        Enable abundant production despite climate variability and new pest and disease pressures.

·        Enhance rural committees by creating new industries based on renewable agriculture resources and employment opportunities.

·        Attract high quality talent to the University of Minnesota to meet the future workforce needs of the agriculture, food, energy and natural resource-based industries in the state.

Those who have participated in the project are also urged to take part in the survey, which can be completed via cellphone.

To complete the survey, please click HERE. The survey should take only a few minutes to finish, but note that once started on the survey, it must be completed in a single effort (it cannot be saved and returned to later).

Registration Available for NACD Online Annual Meeting Set for Feb. 1-10

Registration is available for the 75th National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting, which will be held online from Feb. 1-10, 2021 through NACD’s virtual hub.

The event will celebrate the organization’s legacy and recognize its origins through the theme “NACD’s 75th Anniversary: A Diamond Out of the Dust.”

NACD leaders have reconfigured meeting dates to provide maximum quality content while minimizing session duration to better accommodate schedules and time zones.

The first week of programming will consist of business meetings, while the second will feature informative breakout sessions, inspiring speakers, conservation district and district official recognition, and national updates in a virtual convention format.

Check out the meeting agenda on NACD’s 2021 Annual Meeting hub, where registration is available, and will be a platform that will be utilized to host the meeting and all of its related resources.

NACD officials say the organization remains committed to promoting locally-led conservation, America’s conservation districts, responsible management and conservation of natural resources, and diversity and inclusivity in all of those fronts.

In an effort to increase impact, reach new audiences, and in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic devastation it has caused, organizers say they have made the event more affordable than ever, with registration for the 2021 NACD Annual Meeting set at $50.

This price gains access to both the business meetings from February 1-5 and the convention programming February 8-10.

PLEASE NOTE: Each registrant must have their own unique email address.

NACD leaders say they anticipate announcing the 2021 Annual Meeting general session and breakout session lineups in the coming weeks.

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SEASON’S GREETINGS!!!

NACSAA/SfL leaders and staff wish you all happy and safe holidays!

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The North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) is a farmer-led platform for inspiring, educating, and equipping agricultural partners to innovate effective local adaptations that sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience, and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainable development. NACSAA reflects and embraces all scales of agriculture in Canada, Mexico and the United States, ranging from small landholders to midsize and large-scale producers. NACSAA encourages climate smart agriculture (CSA) strategies to enhance the adaptive capacity of North American agriculture to changing climate conditions and works to achieve this goal through three complementary strategies: 1) sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods (i.e. sustainable intensification); 2) enhancing adaptive capacity and improving resilience; and 3) delivering ecosystem services, sequestering carbon, and reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.