October 2020

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the latest edition of NACSAA News, a monthly compilation of CSA-related news. “NACSAA in Action” features the latest on the Alliance activities; “Featured News” offers some of the biggest CSA-related stories of the past month; “Other News We Are Reading” is 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

 

NACSAA ‘Capstone Submission’ Stresses CSA

Is ‘Foundational’ to Global Agreement

 

NACSAA’s has handed over its capstone submission into the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, the global platform for ag policy negotiations, repeating its contention that the use of a Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) framework is foundational to any agricultural climate strategy.

 

“By enabling farmers to lead and focusing on the economic viability of farming operations as they respond to the changing climate,” the submission states, “policymakers can encourage win-win scenarios in which agriculture presents a solution for climate impacts while improving environmental resilience, building strong rural communities, engaging consumers, and ensuring public health and access to nutritious food and supporting the attainment of other global sustainable development goals (SDGs).”

 

The submission, which was filed by Solutions from the Land on NACSAA’s behalf, offers a graphic that presents a visual depiction of tactics and solutions pathways that will enable and scale agricultural contributions to attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

 

 

NACSAA’s submission also reinforced and emphasized the importance of guiding principles that should be followed by all negotiating parties – member states; non-state actors such as business, academic, and farmer organizations; and civil society partners – in the formation of roadmaps and action plans to address agricultural climate change challenges and opportunities.

 

The guiding principles, which have recently been upgraded, include:

  • Profitability for the farmer must be a paramount objective.
  • Farmers must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making.
  • There is no “silver bullet” solution for enhancing the resilience of agriculture..
  • Science-based decision making, in conjunction with farmer and indigenous innovation, must be the foundation for the adoption of climate smart technologies and practices.
  • Agricultural systems to be advanced must increase both production and production efficiency per unit of land and water; meet the food and nutrition needs of the future; and greatly enhance ecosystem health.
  • Innovation must be mobilized across all elements and participants in the food and agriculture system.
  • Adaptation strategies will require system approaches.
  • Climate smart agriculture knowledge and must be integrated into processes and investments.
  • Context-specific priorities and solutions must be aligned with national policies and priorities,

“By enabling farmers to lead and focusing on the economic viability of farming operations as they respond to the changing climate,” the submission states, “policymakers can encourage win-win scenarios in which agriculture presents a solution for climate impacts while improving environmental resilience, building strong rural communities, engaging consumers, and ensuring public health and access to nutritious food and supporting the attainment of other global sustainable development goals.”

 

The submission also lays out its enabling policy recommendations, which were constructed from input gathered from NACSAA members, including agriculture, food production, equipment manufacturing, life science and conservation organizations. Developed for the U.S. Congress, the suggestions represent a collective body of work from NACSAA members that – while not gaining unanimous endorsement from every partner for every item on the list – presents a composite consensus of important climate change enabling policies evolving from North America agricultural stakeholders.

 

The policy recommendations cover water management, financial assistance and incentives, technical assistance, investments in infrastructure, research, risk management, decision-making and capacity building, carbon pricing mechanisms, payments for ecosystem services, clean energy,

 

Report Shows How Catalytic Capital Can Support Sustainable Agriculture

 

A new report by NACSAA partner EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) and Climate and Forest Capital, Catalytic Capital and Agriculture: Opportunities to Invest in Healthy Soils, Resilient Farms and a Stable Climate [PDF], finds that there is a profound need and opportunity for catalytic capital to support and scale new climate-smart financial models for agriculture.

 


Catalytic capital is traditionally defined as the use of blended finance tools to improve projects’ risk-return profiles to match the requirements of market rate investors. This report emphasizes that catalytic capital should also involve funding to support research, policy and technical assistance alongside direct investments to maximize impact.

 

The report, which was supported by a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, identifies barriers to investing in sustainable agriculture and presents opportunities for catalytic capital to address these barriers, as illustrated by five case studies.

 

The case studies featured in the report include descriptions and analysis of financial mechanisms including transition finance, environmental markets and regional value chain development – and opportunities for catalytic capital to bring them to scale. They include:

  • The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund by Quantified Ventures and the Iowa Soybean Association. The project is built on an investor-funded revolving loan structure that funds conservation practices on farms and is refilled through revenue generated by the sale of environmental outcomes (water quality, greenhouse gas mitigation) to beneficiaries such as municipalities, state and federal government entities, and supply chain companies.
  • The Perennial Fund by Mad Agriculture. The fund offers three-year operating loans to farmers transitioning to organic production, with market off-take support and repayment over eight to 10 years through a 10 to 50% revenue share.
  • Regional Restore Programs by Zero Foodprint. This model seeks to establish city- and county-wide initiatives for restaurants to add 1% surcharges to restaurant bills to be aggregated into grantmaking funds to spur local carbon farming projects.
  • Agrarian Commons by Agrarian Trust. The trust uses program-related investments to acquire farmland from retiring farmers and places it under the control of a local non-profit entity, Agrarian Commons, which is designed to convey long-term affordable multi-farmer tenure in support of sustainable agricultural management.
  • FarmStart by Farm Credit Council. The Farm Credit East FarmStart program supports young and beginning farmers to build equity and improve access to operating loans. Investors for FarmStart LLP purchase equity in farms, which helps young and beginning farmers access operating loans, and the farmer buys back the equity after five years. The model could be translated to regenerative agricultural practices.

The report case studies illustrate key insights as to how catalytic capital has the unique ability to develop and scale new financial models for sustainable agriculture, with a few key insights for funders and investors, such as:

  • Understanding and targeting existing barriers.
  • Identifying the path to scale from the outset.
  • Collecting and sharing data to close information gaps

Deploying catalytic capital to tackle barriers to investment and innovation in sustainable agriculture is critical to achieving a resilient food system.

 

The findings of this report can inform a more strategic and effective use of catalytic capital to build agricultural resilience in the U.S. and beyond.

 

ACE Commends Argonne for 2020 Updates to GREET Model

 

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), this month expressed its appreciation for DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory updates to the Greenhouse gas and Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model, which is widely recognized as the gold-standard tool used to audit the energy and environmental effects of transportation fuels such as ethanol and gasoline.

 


Notably, ACE said, the 2020 updates include a new Feedstock Carbon Intensity Calculator to take inventory on how corn yields, fertilizer use, and agronomic practices on individual farms influence the lifecycle carbon intensity of ethanol and a new lookup table to estimate rates of soil carbon sequestration from different farming practices.

 

Brian Jennings, CEO at ACE, a NACSAA partner organization, said the updated GREET model “will help farmers, ethanol producers and government agencies better understand how farming practices play a pivotal role in reducing the overall carbon intensity of corn ethanol.

 

“Given the growing support for new clean fuel markets at the state and federal level, particularly among Midwestern states,” Jennings continued, “these timely updates to the GREET model should help us advocate for policies that give credit to farmers for practices which further reduce corn ethanol’s carbon footprint.”

 

In 2018, ACE published a white paper, “The Case for Properly Valuing the Low Carbon Benefits of Corn Ethanol,” to shine a light on the need for the kind of updates to the GREET model announced this month. Earlier this year, ACE also helped lead a group of diverse stakeholders to develop a framework encouraging new low carbon fuel markets in the Midwest, including a recommendation that the latest GREET model be used to conduct lifecycle assessments.

 

SfL Joins in Observing World Food Day

 

Solutions from the Land joined other farm organizations, schools, businesses, civil society and governments in observing World Food Day Oct. 16, when they called for “global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, recover from the crisis, and make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.”

 


The date of the observance is the 75th anniversary of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is citing UN World Food Program numbers showing that the COVID-19 pandemic has doubled the number of people across the globe who are acutely food insecure; rising from 135 million people in 2019 to 270 million in 2020.

 

As noted in SfL’s inaugural White Paper a decade ago, the question is not whether there is enough capacity to feed the world population, but, instead, is there sufficient political will. It is a primary message SfL will be advancing in its work over the next year in preparation for the 2021 Food Systems Summit and in other engagements where SfL will be advocating for agricultural solutions to other global sustainable development goals.

 

As noted in an SfL blog last week, World Food Day this year arrived as the COVID-19 global health crisis is giving world leaders “cause to reflect on those things that are truly cherished and, in fact, are among our most basic needs. These uncertain times have prompted many in the world to rekindle their appreciation for a thing that some take for granted and many go without: food.”

 

The FAO – and SfL – used the day to recognize the need to support the farmers, ranchers and front line workers throughout the food system who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to fork at a time when it’s more important than ever, even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current COVID-19 crisis.

 

the bioenergy sector, which has deservedly been recognized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) its generation of large, sustained climate change mitigation benefits.

 

Bioenergy Day 2020 Showcases Biomass, Biofuel Benefits

 

Multiple bioenergy and biomass organizations, including NACSAA partner, the American Biogas Coalition, joined in a virtual observation Oct. 20th of the Eighth Annual Bioenergy Day to showcase the benefits of the renewable energy source.

 


The 90-minute online gathering, sponsored by the Biomass Power Association, among others, reflected the efforts of those who produce the alternative fuel and power source to point out the benefits of bioenergy they offer to businesses, nonprofits, universities, and state and local governments stakeholders from across the United States and Canada.

 

Biomass is a sustainable substitute for fossil fuel-intensive products and can play a key role in maintaining forest health, controlling soil erosion and improving water quality. Using sustainable production systems, the nation’s grasslands and forests are a natural and strategic resource that can help America achieve and enhance U.S. energy security, economic opportunity, environmental quality and global competitiveness.

 

Restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed what has traditionally been extensive interaction between bioenergy projects and their local communities on Bioenergy Day. But sponsors like the Biomass Power Association and others found a variety of ways to virtually raise awareness of the economic and environmental benefits offered by bioenergy.

 

“Bioenergy” is the use of any organic material, including forest thinnings, crop residues and agricultural waste, to generate heating, cooling and/or electricity. The category also includes biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel. As bioenergy, they all play a key role in a pillar of climate smart agriculture, as its use reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to equivalent fossil fuels.

 

A prominent example of stakeholder initiative is a project being undertaken in Iowa where an SfL-sponsored Iowa Smart Agriculture Work group is pursuing the integration of cover crops and renewable energy. The project calls for harvested cover crops to be used to enhance the effective functioning of anaerobic digesters on hog and beef farms in producing renewable natural gas.

 

Planning Continues for Next Year’s World Food Summit

 

Acknowledging that a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society, some 200 participants from around the world, meeting earlier this month ahead of next year’s World Food Summit – including SfL Board member Lois Wright Morton, a farmer and professor emeritus of rural sociology with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University – agreed that the shared actions must be built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the center.

 


The event was hosted by the Private Sector Mechanism, an open platform providing a permanent seat for the broad agri-food business value chain at the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). PSM has been hosting a High-Level Dialogue (HLD) for the last ten years to serve as a platform for interaction between senior leadership from the private sector, civil society and permanent representatives of the Rome-based UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 

Usually taking the form of a dinner in Rome, the gathering was held this month as a virtual event as part of the Food Systems Dialogues. The conversation among those participants focused on the 2021 Food Systems Summit’s Five Action Tracks.

 

This year’s HLD brought together ambassadors, representatives of CFS Member States, UN agencies, NGOs and private companies, as well as such dignitaries as the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, Dr. Agnes Kalibata; U.S. Under-Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney; and CFS Chair Thanawat Tiensin. For the first time ever, a record four former CSA chairpersons also participated.

 

Each breakout group discussed ways to encourage multi-stakeholder partnerships and possible challenges along the following the upcoming food summit’s five action tracks:

  1. Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food for all
  2. Shifting to sustainable consumption patterns
  3. Boosting nature-positive production
  4. Advancing equitable livelihoods
  5. Building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

Key takeaways highlighted by PSM as crucial to making progress on the action tracks included:

  • Promote partnerships for technology, research, and innovation. Public and private sector stakeholders must collaborate and invest in these areas in order to ensure the proper nutrition and health of the people as well as the wellness of the planet
  • Include all value-chain actors in the development of policies and regulations. From farmers to retailers, various actors of the food system need to be consulted  in  order  to   build consensus and provide relevant policies, quality standards and safety regulations.
  • Encourage sustainable production as well as sustainable consumption. The CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition being developed focus on sustainable production, but consumers must also assess their dietary habits to reduce food waste.
  • Support sustainable and equitable trade channels for food security. The pandemic reinforced the role of trade in safeguarding food security.
  • Adopt metrics and measurements that would serve as benchmarks for successful nature-positive methods and strengthen transparency, as well as identify where support is needed across the value chain.
  • Build a framework to standardize and then monetize nature-positive approaches. Partners need to be oriented in the same direction and when value is created around it more actors will be attracted to the process.
  • Improve access to financial services and alternate funding sources to advance equitable livelihoods. This also means introducing farmers to risk management.
  • Create an inventory of best practices and cooperation programs around the world that farmers can have access to, to enable them to replicate successful solutions in their communities or regions.
  • Establish early warning mechanisms to increase food systems visibility and anticipation. This will in turn enhance preparedness for shocks or stressors in the food system.
  • Improve physical infrastructure and stronger institutions for quicker and more efficient responses, as well as deal with vulnerabilities in the food system.
  • Broker the differences, disagreements and disconnects within the food system.

   ISU C-CHANGE Conference Focuses on Boosting RNG Value Chain

 

A conference focused on expanding the value chain for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from mixed agricultural feedstocks was staged virtually by NACSAA partner Iowa State University (ISU) earlier this month.

 


The conference, the first in a series hosted by ISU’s Consortium for Cultivating Human And Naturally reGenerative Enterprises (C-CHANGE), brought together experts from agriculture, energy, government, science and society to share new thinking and new ideas to expand the value chain for RNG, a component of biogas.

 

Conference sponsors said RNG is the best-incentivized, fastest growing product in today’s bioeconomy. Participants discussed the potential of a value chain based on RNG that, if done right, could foster new economic development in rural America. It could also alleviate concerns for energy security, greenhouse-gas emissions, soil health, climate resilience, water quality, flooding and wildlife habitat in the Midwestern United States and beyond.

 

Speakers at the conference included NACSAA Enabling Policy Committee Chair Ray Gaesser, a corn and soybean grower; Bryan Sievers, vice chair of the American Biogas Council, and head of Sievers Family Farms and AgriReNew located near Davenport; and SfL President Ernie Shea.

 

Sievers came with hands-on credentials to speak. The Sievers Farm operation partners with Glenora Feed Yard to capture manure from their beef cattle feedlot operations. Using an anaerobic digester system, AgriReNew converts the manure, along with waste streams from several agricultural processing facilities in the region, into methane that powers a generator to produce enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes annually. The two 970,000-gallon digesters also produce an abundant supply of rich, environmentally-friendly natural fertilizers that provide valuable nutrients to farms in the area, thereby virtually eliminating the need for imported, inorganic forms of fertilizer.

 

“As a lifelong Iowan, I care deeply about soil health, clean water and economic opportunity in rural Iowa,” Sievers said. “By growing a vibrant biogas market, through good policy, we can meet all three of these goals.”

 

The conference was structured to share information and generate discussion regarding feedstocks, anaerobic digestion, coproducts, distribution, financing, policy, market opportunities, and societal impact. Participating were agricultural business and energy industry representatives, farmers and farmland owners, entrepreneurs, college and graduate students, researchers, governmental officials and representatives of agricultural, energy and environmental non-governmental organizations.

 

Audio and video recordings of the C-CHANGE conference are available HERE. Recordings of breakout sessions on societal value; co-products; distribution, markets and feedstocks; and anaerobic digestion, policy and financing are all available HERE.

 

GACSAA Stages Innovative “Cooking Show” on CSA

 

The Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), a NACSAA partner, held an innovative side event in conjunction with the fall High Level FAO Committee on Food Security meeting, staging on Oct. 15 a Special Event on Food Security and Nutrition, which took on an interactive concept in the form of a cooking show.

 


The highly creative and engaging side event on “Scaling Up Investments for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Projects in Food Systems” featured GACSA Co-Chairs H.E. Hans Hoogeveen and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda as “head chefs,” and experts from all around the world as international chefs talking about CSA as their “recipes.” The session was moderated by “chef” Imelda (Dada) Bacudo, an adviser to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on climate policy and finance, climate smart agriculture and land use.

 

The event drew together representatives from another NACSAA partner, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), as well as from The Netherlands, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the World Bank (WB) and Australia. They discussed and shared innovative approaches on initiatives for matchmaking services between different stakeholders in CSA; methodologies and provide regional evidence of success stories.

 

A video of the event is available on YouTube.

 

 

Featured News

New Legislation Introduced to Reduce Vehicle Emissions,

Increase Biofuels Demand

 

Legislation that would leverage greater fuel octane to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, improve air quality by reducing the use of harmful aromatics and increase demand for biofuels, has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

 


The sponsor of the Next Generation Fuels Act, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said the measure “looks toward the future to make sure we bring an environmental lens to biofuels production, in order to increase demand while reducing carbon emissions.”

 

The measure may see little action in the time left in this, the 116th

session of Congress. But legislation introduced this late can give a strong indication of bills that will be pursued in the next session of Congress, beginning in January.

 

The measure promotes fuels with greater levels of octane, which are more stable and have the potential to make engines more fuel-efficient. Bustos’ legislation establishes a minimum octane standard for gasoline and requires sources of the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 30 percent compared to baseline gasoline. The legislation would also limit the use of harmful aromatics in meeting the new higher-octane standard, as well as in current-market gasoline.

 

“For the last three and a half years, we have been forced to fight battle after battle and face [the Trump] administration’s broken promise after broken promise to ensure our country is meeting the full potential of biofuels,” Bustos said in explaining her motives for introducing the bill.

 

The bill has generated support from biofuel-related trade groups.

 

“Congresswoman Bustos has been a real champion for agriculture and the benefits of low carbon ethanol,” said Kevin Ross, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). The legislation “builds on the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard in advancing corn growers’ commitment to providing the lowest cost, most efficient, and environmentally friendly fuel available.”

 

“There has never been a more urgent need to adopt higher octane, low-carbon ethanol blends in America’s fuel supply, as they are key to achieving clean, healthy air,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “We applaud Congresswoman Bustos for charting a path forward that will unleash clean, affordable ethanol to drive decarbonization in our nation’s transportation fleet and save consumers money at the fuel pump.”

 

“The Next Generation Fuels Act of 2020 provides a bold and innovative approach to reducing carbon emissions, improving engine efficiency and performance, protecting human health, and removing the arcane regulatory roadblocks that have hindered the expansion of cleaner, greener liquid fuels,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “By establishing the roadmap for an orderly transition to high-octane, low-carbon fuels, this landmark legislation begins an exciting new era in transportation fuels policy.

 

“As the world’s top supplier of clean, affordable, low-carbon octane, the U.S. ethanol industry proudly and enthusiastically supports this legislation.”

 

Database Offers More Accurate Modelling

Of Climate Change on Water Resources

 

To better document the repercussions of climate change on regional water resources, researchers from around the world now have access to HYSETS, a database of hydrometric, meteorological and physiographic data created by a team at Montreal, Canada’s École de Technologie Supérieure (ÉTS).

 


The database contains 70 years’ worth of data on 14,425 North American watersheds.

 

“Given the diversity of its data and the number of regions documented, HYSETS will allow you to develop models for virtually any type of climate,” said Richard Arsenault, professor of construction engineering and a member of the Hydrology, Climate and Climate Change Laboratory (HC3), at ÉTS, who spearheaded the project.

 

The ready-to-use data are offered free of charge and can be downloaded from HERE.

 

“Normally, we have to draw the data we need from several different databases, then filter them before being able to use them to create a reliable model. This task must be repeated each time we want to create a model. We thought it would be a good idea to create a huge database with ready-to-use data that could serve the entire scientific community,” explained Richard Arsenault.

 

HC3 officials say HYSETS differentiates itself from other databases with the huge number of watersheds its covers, the wide variety of data provided for each watershed, and its reach across three nations.

 

Officials also say HYSETS contains hydrometric, meteorological and physiographic data – a diversity that is highly useful, if not necessary, to better understanding the propagation of uncertainties in water resource management chains.

 

Another notable factor cited by officials is HYSETS inclusion of data that covers a long period of time, from 1950 to 2018. The database will be augmented annually with data from the previous year, making it highly useful for studying past and more recent changes in hydroclimatic variables across different regions of North America.

 

The HYSETS database can also be used as a test environment for a wide range of applications, including hydrological modeling. With multiple datasets on temperatures and precipitation, the database can assist in correcting biases in worldwide and regional climate models.

 

Arsenault says the database is an “undeniable” asset for researchers in hydrology, environment and climate sciences, because it’s easier to develop models using a significant number of regions. In addition, current studies rely more and more on large scale data in order to take into account the instabilities created by climate change.

 

One-Two Punch: The Effects of Repeated Droughts

On Different Kinds of Forests

 

Drought is endemic to the American West along with heatwaves and intense wildfires. But scientists are only beginning to understand how the effects of multiple droughts can compound to affect forests differently than a single drought alone.

 


A team comprised of researchers from the University of Utah, University of California – Santa Barbara, Stanford University and the U.S. Forest Service – investigated the effects of repeated, extreme droughts on various types of forests across the globe.

 

They found that a variety of factors can increase and decrease a forest’s resilience to subsequent droughts. However, the study, published in Nature Climate Change, concluded that successive droughts are generally increasingly detrimental to forests, even when each drought was no more extreme than the initial one.

 

Droughts usually leave individual trees more vulnerable to subsequent droughts. The team found that compounding extreme events can be really stressful on forests and trees, comparing the experience to a person battling an illness who’ll be harder hit if they get sick again while still recovering.

 

But lead author William Anderegg, an assistant professor at the University of Utah, also said there could be variables, noting that “[T]heoretically, responses to subsequent droughts could be quite varied depending on a wide range of tree-level and ecosystem-level factors.” So, while a drought may place a tree under considerable stress, it could also kill off some of its neighbors, leaving the survivors with less competition for water should arid conditions return.

 

The researchers used a variety of data sources to investigate this effect on a broad scale. Tree ring data spanning more than 100 years enabled them to see how trees that survived an initial drought grew afterward. Data from the U.S. Forest Inventory and Analysis gave them access to metrics on tree mortality for more than 100,000 forest plots from 2000 through 2018. They combined these sources with satellite measurements of the water content in forest canopies.

 

Anderegg said two clear trends emerged:

  • Trees seem to become more vulnerable to stress after multiple droughts, especially conifers
  • Conifers and their kin may sustain more damage in an initial drought and be at a disadvantage compared to broadleaf trees due to different vascular systems.

Broadleaf trees “have much more flexible anatomy and physiology, and this seems to help them recover faster and more fully after initial droughts,” Anderegg said.

 

The researcher says he was particularly surprised by the impact repeated drought had on the Amazon Rainforest, noting that society tends to “think of these forests as not very impacted by drought and, due to their high tree diversity, able to recover quickly. “But,” he added, “our results indicate the Amazon has been hit hard by three very severe droughts in the past 15 years.”

 

Forests are complex systems, and a variety of factors ultimately dictate how they respond to extreme events. Trugman said that damage has to be considered at both the individual level and the forest level as. Although surviving trees will need time to recover from an extreme drought, they will face less competition for water resources than they had before – an outcome that could leave them in a better situation if drought returns to the area.

 

The researchers also say natural selection will drive the forest as a whole to transition toward more resilient individuals, or even to more drought tolerant species overall. Repeated droughts affect forest pests and pathogens as well, and their response to these conditions will also influence how forests behave.

 

Scientists say they are still working to sort out the conditions under which each of these factors rises to the top, with the next pressing step being a close look at the underlying mechanisms at a physiological level and ecological level.

 

Researchers can use the insights to improve computer models and make more accurate forecasts about the future of forests in a changing climate, which is expected to bring more frequent droughts.

 

“We have to understand and be able to forecast how forests will respond to multiple droughts,” Anderegg said. “These results are especially crucial in the western U.S., where we’ve had a number of major droughts in the past 20 years.”

 

New Global Temperature Data Will Inform Study

Of Climate Impacts on Ag Health

 

A seemingly small one-to-two-degree change in the global climate can dramatically alter weather-related hazards. Given that such a small change can result in such big impacts, it is important to have the most accurate information possible when studying the impact of climate change. This can be especially challenging in data-sparse areas like Africa, where some of the most dangerous hazards are expected to emerge.

 


A new data set published in the journal Scientific Data provides high-resolution, daily temperatures from around the globe that could prove valuable in studying human health impacts from heat waves, risks to agriculture, droughts, potential crop failures, and food insecurity.

 

Data scientists Andrew Verdin and Kathryn Grace of the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota worked with colleagues at the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California Santa Barbara to produce and validate the data set.

 

“It’s important to have this high-resolution because of the wide-ranging impacts – to agriculture, health, infrastructure. People experiencing heat waves, crop failures, droughts – that’s all local,” said Verdin, the lead author.

 

By combining weather station data, remotely sensed infrared data and the weather simulation models, this new data set provides daily estimates of 2-meter maximum and minimum air temperatures for 1983-2016. Named CHIRTS-daily, this data provides high levels of accuracy, even in areas where on-site weather data collection is sparse. Current efforts are focused on updating the data set in near real time.

 

“We know that the next 20 years are going to bring more extreme heat waves that will put millions or even billions of people in harm’s way. CHIRTS-daily will help us monitor, understand, and mitigate these rapidly emerging climate hazards”, said Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center.

 

Additionally, the people who are most vulnerable are often located in areas where publicly available weather station data are deteriorating or unreliable. Areas with rapidly expanding populations and exposures (Africa, Central America and parts of Asia, for example) can’t rely on weather observations. By combining different sources of weather information, each contributes to provide detail and context for a more accurate, global temperature dataset.

 

“We’re really excited about the possibilities for fine-scale, community-focused climate-health data analyses that this dataset can support. We’re excited to see researchers use it,” said co-author Kathryn Grace.

 

EPA Signs Pact with MD, PA to Expand Efforts

Supporting Clean Water, Healthy Farms

 

The EPA has signed five-year, first-of-their-kind agreements with officials in Maryland and Pennsylvania to expand joint activities supporting what the agency says are shared goal of cleaner water and sustainable farms.

 


In separate events, EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder in Caroline County, and a Letter of Understanding (LOU) with Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding in Lancaster County, the agency announced Oct. 2.

 

The MOU in Maryland and the LOU in Pennsylvania both formalize a partnership between the EPA and the states’ Departments of Agriculture, and expands activities to prioritize funding, coordinate on regulatory programs, recognize farmers for environmental stewardship, and enhance opportunities for a dialogue with the agricultural community.

 

The agreements build “on the actions our agencies are taking together and with the broader agricultural community to promote a vibrant farm economy and clean rivers and streams,” said Servidio. They formalize “our work together in the pursuit of solutions that are good for both agriculture and the environment.”

 

“Maryland farmers are known across the nation as leaders in conservation practices like cover crops and no-till,” said Bartenfelder. “Living in such close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, protecting the environment and improving water quality is top-of-mind for Maryland farmers. This agreement between MDA and the EPA strengthens the commitment our agriculture industry has to environmental stewardship.”

 

“These past few months have made it crystal clear to the public that having food on their tables depends on having farms that are functioning at the top of their game and ready for whatever nature throws at them,” Redding said at the signing at Worth the Wait Farms. “The Landis family farm models soil and water conservation practices that ensure a healthy farm that will keep producing food now and in the future. We’re pleased to cement this agreement on just such a farm in Lancaster County, where what happens on the farm affects healthy food, healthy water and healthy communities for our whole Mid-Atlantic region.”

 

In the agreements, the agencies commit to the goal of “well-managed, sustainable farms that produce food for our communities and a clean environment for everyone to enjoy.”

 

Under the MOU, and LOU, the agencies intend to:

  • Coordinate and leverage federal, state and private funding to support agricultural conservation practices and environmental protection.
  • Advance opportunities to provide EPA grant funding directly to the states’ respective Departments of Agriculture, particularly when it can improve the timely expenditure of federal funds.
  • Convene annual meetings with state and federal leaders on priorities and activities, as well as joint trainings to ensure effective implementation of federal and state regulatory programs.
  • Co-host Agriculture Roundtables and farm tours to foster a dialogue with the agricultural community on successes, challenges and opportunities to work together.
  • Participate in state program assessments to identify best practices and opportunities, and further compliance.
  • Collaborate on an annual report to highlight achievements under the agreements.

CO2 Emissions Mapped for Entire U.S. Landscape

To Help Improve Policy Making

 

A NASA-funded researcher has published results he says details greenhouse gas emissions across the entire U.S. landscape at high space- and time-resolution, with details on economic sector, fuel and combustion process.

 


Northern Arizona University Professor Kevin Gurney, who specializes in atmospheric science, ecology and public policy, has spent several years developing a standardized system, as part of the Vulcan Project, that quantifies and visualizes greenhouse gases emitted throughout the entire country. The measurements can be taken down to individual power plants, neighborhoods, areas of land and roadways, identifying problem areas and enabling better decisions about where to cut emissions most effectively.

 

Leading up to the nationwide study, which is now published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Gurney produced emissions maps of several different large cities, including the Los Angeles megacity, Indianapolis, the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metropolitan area and Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

Gurney developed the high-resolution emissions map as an effective tool for scientific and policy applications. He says his goal is to provide policymakers throughout the nation with a means to strategically address problem areas instead of taking an inefficient and costly approach.

 

“We’re providing U.S. policymakers at national, state and local scales with a scalpel instead of a hammer,” he said. “Policies that might be relevant to California are possibly less relevant for Chicago or New York. They need to have information that reflects their unique conditions but follows a rigorous, standardized scientific approach. In this way, they can have confidence in the numbers which, in turn, will stimulate smart investment in reducing emissions.”

 

A strength of Gurney’s approach is validation by atmospheric monitoring of CO2 from ground-based and satellite instruments.

 

“By synthesizing the detail of building and road-scale emissions with the independence and accuracy of atmospheric monitoring, we have the best possible estimate of emissions with the most policy-relevant detail,” Gurney said.

 

Data from the Vulcan mapping project is available on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Data Archive. Additional imagery is available on the Vulcan website.

 

 

 

Other News We Are Reading…

Trade, Biofuels and the Environment: Key Agriculture Issues in U.S. Election (Reuters)

 

U.S. President Donald Trump enjoys broad support among farmers, but some are unhappy about the impact of his trade and biofuel policies on crop prices and international demand for U.S. agricultural products. Democrat challenger Joe Biden has seized on the biofuel issue, pledged a more multilateral approach to international trade, and promises to make farming more environmentally friendly. (Read more…)

 

 Bacterial Cellulose Degradation Could Give Boost to Biofuels Production

(Japan’s Institute for Molecular Science)

 

Researchers have uncovered details of how a certain type of bacteria breaks down cellulose-a finding that could help reduce the cost and environmental impact of the use of biomass, including biofuel production. The bacteria’s cellulose degradation system is in some way different from how a fungus is already widely used in industry, including to soften up denim to make stone-washed jeans. (Read more…)

 

Climate Change A Factor in Most of Natural Disasters Since 2000

 (The Hill)

 

There were more than 7,000 extreme weather events since 2000, a major increase over the previous 20 years due in part to climate change, according to a report from the United Nations. From 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major recorded disasters claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people, “many on more than one occasion,” and causing approximately $2.97 trillion in global economic losses, according to the report. There were 4,212 such events from 1980 to 1999, which took 1.19 million lives, affected 3.25 billion people and resulted in approximately $1.63 trillion in economic losses. (Read more…)

 

Atmospheric Dust Levels Are Rising in the Great Plains (@theU)

 

A study from University of Utah researchers and their colleagues finds that atmospheric dust levels are rising across the Great Plains at a rate of up to 5 percent per year. The trend of rising dust parallels expansion of cropland and seasonal crop cycles, suggesting that farming practices are exposing more soil to wind erosion. And if the Great Plains becomes drier, a possibility under climate change scenarios, then all the pieces are in place for a repeat of the Dust Bowl that devastated the Midwest in the 1930s. “We can’t make changes to the earth surface without some kind of consequence just as we can’t burn fossil fuels without consequences,” says Andy Lambert, the lead author of the study, which was published in Geophysical Research Letters “So, while the agriculture industry is absolutely important, we need to think more carefully about where and how we plant.” (Read more…)

 

 

Partner News and Events

 

Summit to Advance Sustainable Outcomes

for Agriculture Set for Nov. 18-19

 

Field to Market and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy are hosting the sixth annual Sustainable Agriculture Summit on Nov. 18-19, together with the National Pork Board, the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops and the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

 


The vision of the Sustainable Agriculture Summit is to strengthen the supply chain network of producers, agribusinesses, retailers and influencers who drive continuous improvement in agricultural sustainability and deliver food, fiber, and fuel to a growing world.

 

Join more than 600 food and agricultural supply chain leaders and experts at the 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Summit,

Beyond 2020: The Next Generation of Sustainability in Action.

 


The virtually conducted summit will look to the next generation of sustainability leadership, technologies and collaborations to discover how U.S. agriculture can deliver lasting impact through improved productivity, profitability, resiliency and environmental outcomes.

 

The summit will offer you a chance to:

  • Learn more about key sustainability challenges and opportunities;
  • Discuss opportunities to advance continuous improvement in agricultural sustainability; and
  • Spark ideas around how agriculture can drive change and positive impact through sustainability-led innovation.

USDA CA Climate Hub Offers Fact Sheets

on Soil Health, Amendments, Carbon Farming

 

USDA’s California Climate Hub is partnering with the Working Lands Innovation Center in creating a fact sheet series exploring the relationship between carbon farming, soil health and soil amendments on the state’s croplands and rangelands.

 

The soil-focused fact-sheet series, which is intended for members of the technical assistance community who advise California growers on climate-smart agriculture, provides an overview of carbon farming and addresses the potential benefits of compost, pulverized rock, and biochar as soil amendments.

 


Natural and working lands play a vital role in helping California meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. There is huge potential to store carbon in soils on croplands and rangelands in California using soil amendments. In addition to enhancing soil carbon sequestration, soil amendments may provide co-benefits to growers such as increased crop and forage yields and improved soil health.

 

The Working Lands Innovation Center is testing the carbon sequestration potential of compost, pulverized rock, and biochar amendments and calculating co-benefits to growers. This work contributes to the growing knowledge of carbon farming and provides resources to aid the technical assistance community in advising growers on practical application of soil amendments.

 

Carbon farming is the use of specific on-farm practices designed to take carbon out of the air and store it in soils and plant material. Carbon farming practices include application of soil amendments like compost or biochar, conservation tillage, agroforestry, whole orchard recycling, cover crops that maximize living roots, and many others. (See USDA-NRCS Soil Health Management to access the Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Sequestration Ranking Tool for Agriculture).

 

Building soil organic matter on croplands and rangelands sequesters carbon in soils, which helps mitigate the effects of climate change while potentially providing co-benefits for soil health and increased adaptive capacity. Soil amendments may increase the amount of carbon held in soil organic matter, leading to greater carbon sequestration.

 

Soil amendments are products added to soils to improve soil qualities like soil fertility. Many of the soil amendments that can improve soil health, also sequester carbon. Amendments that increase soil organic matter may improve the water holding capacity and infiltration in soils, which promotes resilience to climate-related impacts such as drought, heat waves, or heavy rains. Additionally, research shows that amendments can promote biological activity and supply vital nutrients, resulting in healthier plants that are less vulnerable to pests and disease.

 

In this fact sheet series, learn more about carbon farming and soil amendments including compost, biochar, and pulverized rock. The fact sheets are available through the following links:

 

Carbon Farming Fact Sheet

 

Compost Fact Sheet

 

Pulverized Rock Fact Sheet

 

Biochar Fact Sheet