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Nurturing our Breadbasket | Scorcher

Published: August 15, 2017 by Editorial Team

Sean Penrith, The Climate Trust
Weekly Policy and Finance Update – August 14, 2017

Bottom line | “The land must continue to provide for our food, clothing and shelter long after the oil is gone.” – Lloyd Noble.

The breadbaskets of the world hold significant potential in the battle against climate change. Soil is a climate ally holding more carbon than the atmosphere and all vegetation combined. Up to a third of the emission reductions needed under the Paris Agreement can be achieved by sequestering carbon in agricultural land, forests, wetlands, and marine habitats. Paul Hawken’s Drawdown sets out a pathway to reverse the accumulation of atmospheric carbon within 30 years using existing practices, evaluated on cost, implementation period, and impact. Twenty three of the 80 “Drawdown” solutions are based on forests, agriculture or other land management strategies with regenerative agriculture coming in at rank 11 (net savings of $1,928 billion), managed grazing at rank 19 ($535 billion), and farmland restoration at rank 23 ($1,342 billion).

Achieving that kind of savings through climate smart agriculture is within reach of the farming community. Since carbon makes up 58% of soil organic matter, building soil resiliency has become a significant strategy in our climate mitigation quiver. The Four per 1000 initiative declares that a 4% annual growth in the rate of soil carbon stock would support arresting the current increase in global emissions.

Some progressive lawmakers are recognizing the potential of climate smart agriculture. Assemblywoman Didi Barrett of New York introduced the Carbon Farming Act that proposes a tax credit for farmers employing practices that sequester carbon in vegetation and soils. Hawaii established a Carbon Farming Task Force in July this year to design incentives to drive up the state’s soil carbon content as part of the effort to enhance the resilience of their farming and ranching lands. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently announced their Healthy Soils Program (HSP). Using a portion of the state’s cap and trade revenues, competitive grant funding will be offered to projects that employ specific management practices for farmers and ranchers to improve soil health and sequester carbon.

While momentum and interest is certainly building, climate smart agriculture has been challenged since it has not enjoyed near the level of subsidy and incentive payments the green energy or transportation sectors have accrued during the fight against climate change. Stakeholders working on potential edits to the Farm Bill up for renewal in 2018 are exploring how best to use the Bill to support such climate smart agriculture. Callie Eideberg of EDF pointed out in an interview with Conservation Finance Network that while there is roughly $6 billion in the conservation program portion of the Farm Bill, it is insufficient to get to the scale of national impact needed. She explained that a mechanism was needed to spur farmers to undertake practice changes that delivered meaningful gains while opening the gates to the private sector to finance these conservation approaches for a return. Success in this endeavor would bring the massive flow of private capital to bear on investing in nurturing our breadbasket. continue

Research and Resources

Carbon Drawdown Overview
Paul Hawken, November 2016

Top News Headlines

More profit from fewer cows. Here’s the secret.
Beef Magazine, September 15, 2016

How carbon farming could halt climate change
New Food Economy, August 10, 2017

Nothing But Clear Skies Blog

Rethinking California Grant-making for Methane Reduction
Peter Weisberg, The Climate Trust, June 27, 2017

Image credit: Flickr/Bemep