Letter from U.S. Farmers & Ranchers to Congress: We Need a Green New Deal

Are you a farmer or rancher? Or a farmer- or rancher-member organization?

Would you like to see Congress pass better food and farming legislation? Legislation that supports you in your efforts to manage your land using practices that improve soil health, contribute to clean water, and produce healthy food?

Do you want agricultural policies that will help you compete in the marketplace, by ensuring fair prices for your products and a level playing field in the marketplace?

Please sign this letter to Congress.

From Despair to Repair

I belong to an online climate discussion group that today asked three questions: what is the state of the movement, do we need climate change or system change, and do we need a meta-movement? Keying off the insights from the Earth Repair Conference, I wrote the following – and have added a post-script to include a week of research on the state of the movement for Earth Repair:

CLIMATE MOVEMENT: STATE OF PLAY

Last weekend I attended the Global Earth Repair conference and this workshop (long) where a new context clicked for me, though I’ve had all the pieces collected over all these years of low to the ground innovations.

The cumulative impact of the event revealed this: the Climate Movement is missing a crucial, essential element. It offers resistance but not repair. It is clear about the against, but largely mum on an equal scale restoration project. The anti-war movement allied with the Peace Movement had moral and spiritual power.

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The Next Regeneration

Didi Barrett, a New York state assemblymember, has visited Stone House Grain, a farm in the Hudson Valley, enough times to be a seasoned tour guide. That’s what it felt like, at least, as we drove in a Jeep down a narrow road, through fields blanketed by cover crops and perennial pastures spread out like a gold-and-brown checkerboard. It was mid-March, a time of dormancy for most plants in the region. Poplar trees, bare of any leaves, lined either side of the road. But the farm was already teeming with life.

From behind the wheel, Ben Dobson, the farm manager, explained why his farm was unseasonably busy. “The basic premise of what people are now calling ‘carbon farming’ is that the earth’s surfaces were made to photosynthesize,” he said, eyeing his fields with a relaxed confidence.

It’s all part of a natural cycle: On warm days, Dobson’s crops pull carbon dioxide from the sky and release it into the soil where it nourishes developing plants.

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Ohio Soil Health Pioneer’s Farm is Classroom for Upcoming Regenerative Agriculture School

CARROLL, Ohio (May 15, 2019) – He’s been described as the “Obi-Wan Kenobi” of soil health because of his masterful, Jedi-like ability to regenerate the soil. 

His Carroll, Ohio farm now draws hundreds of researchers, farmers and conservationists from across the globe to gain insights into the principles and practices that have enabled him to restore the health and function of his soil and to invigorate his farming business.

Today, the Soil Health Academy announced that Brandt Farms will host a soil health and regenerative agriculture school, June 4-6, so other farmers can see and learn, first-hand, how 74-year-old David Brandt has transformed his soil and improved his farm’s profitability.

As more farmers struggle to stay afloat in today’s turbulent agricultural economy, Brandt said he hopes to share his successful regenerative farming model so others can learn how to improve the profitability of their own farming operations. 

“Hosting an SHA school on the farm is my way of introducing other farmers to the wide-range of regenerative agriculture benefits, including improved water infiltration, reduced use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides and improved soil health.” Brandt said. “They’ll see what can happen to their own soil through the use of no-till, cover crops and continuous cropping rotations.”

In addition to Brandt, attendees of the three-day, hands-on school will learn from world-renowned regenerative agriculture experts Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Allen Williams, Ph.D., as well as other technical consultants.

While many traditional agriculture researchers and farmers were initially skeptical of regenerative agriculture’s potential, Brandt’s success has helped usher in a new era in agriculture that focuses on farming in nature’s image—practically and profitably.

“Conventional farming wisdom says it’s impossible to achieve the kind of improvements I’ve made in soil organic matter, soil health and soil function,” he said. “But the results are real and they speak for themselves.”

Brandt describes his soil-health focused approach as “part innovation, part perspiration and part determination” and admits he’s had his share of set-backs and challenges.

“My journey has come through many trials and some failures but mainly through hands-on learning to see what can really be done to be a better steward of the land,” Brandt said. “Now I simply want to share my experience and help other farmers become even more successful in their regenerative agriculture journeys.” 

To learn more about the Soil Health Academy School at Brandt Farms, visit www.soilhealthacademy.org or call 256/996-3142.

Reposted with permission from Soil Health Academy

How Weeds Help Fight Climate Change

More than 60 years ago, when he was a child, farmer Peter Andrews saw his first dust storm. He still remembers it. “The noise was horrendous,” he says. “We hid in the house waiting for it to pass. The whole sky was dark. And the damage we saw the next day was even more terrible.”

The wind had ripped many of the trees on his family’s property completely bare. Some of their horses and cattle asphyxiated, unable to breath in the dust.

That early experience has led him to a particular calling: trying to regenerate Australia’s land, since dust storms occur in hot, arid regions where there is little vegetation to anchor the soil.

“It really led me… to thinking about how to find solutions for keeping the land in balance,” Andrews says. “Over many decades I learned from observation how to keep the land fertile, how every landscape has its own natural system. 

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A Green New Deal Must Prioritize Regenerative Agriculture

We are at a radically new stage in our fight for the planet. The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youth-led Sunrise Movement, and hundreds of other climate justice leaders and organizations has given us a new holistic framework for tackling both the climate crisis and structural inequality.

This bold vision for the future has, in a matter of months, radically expanded what is politically possible and clarified what is morally required of us as a society. Just a year ago, the progressive movement was struggling to articulate climate solutions that were capable of meeting the severity and scale of the problem, relying instead on piecemeal reforms.

With any luck, those days are decisively behind us. The goal is no longer to slow the bleeding; it’s to heal the wound.

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New Project in Carbon Farming Launched in India

A new project will help farmers increase their income as well as store carbon in their soil. Starting with 20 farmers in two districts of Maharashtra state in India, the carbon farming project will compensate farmers for increases in soil organic carbon. These farmers follow no-till practices in growing rice and other cover crops.

The project is an initiative of Shekar Bhadsavale, a California-educated progressive farmer from Neral, and Emmanuel D’Silva, an agriculture and environment scientist from Mumbai who previously worked at the World Bank.

Bhadsavale has pioneered Saguna Rice Technique (SRT), a form of zero-till conservation agriculture, which has been accepted by over 1,000 farmers in several Indian states. D’Silva had initiated carbon credit programs through tree plantations in 44 tribal villages a decade earlier.

“The farmers we selected are mostly smallholder farmers with less than a hectare. In Karjat [area], they are mostly tribals growing rice followed by vegetables,” explains Bhadsavale who grows rice, string beans, and other cover crops.

“SRT will not only increase farm yields and income, but also improve the health of soils, thereby, storing more carbon in the process,” said Bhadsavale.

“Increasing soil organic carbon through conservation agriculture practices like SRT will benefit everyone on the planet,” observes D’Silva, the agriculture and environment scientist.

“A one-percent increase in soil organic carbon in one acre is equivalent to storing 18 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide underneath our ground. Agriculture can provide a better solution to the climate crisis than some other sectors, if done right,” notes D’Silva.

Looking back on his decade-long experiences in growing multiple types of rice, a variety of legumes, and other crops, Bhadsavale believes that a one percent increase in soil organic carbon can easily be achieved over three years, if farmers practice sustainable farming methods like SRT. He has done a lot to spread the message of SRT in India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Bhadsavale and D’Silva are not the only ones confident of agriculture providing solutions to climate change. Cornelia Rumpel and other soil scientists at CNRS Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in France believe that increasing the carbon content of the world’s soils by just a few parts per thousand (0.4 percent) each year would remove around 3-4 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere and also boost soil health. They cite studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which show increasing soil carbon by 0.4 percent a year can enhance crop yields by 1.3 percent.

Rumpel chairs the scientific and technical committee of the 4 for 1000 initiative launched by France in 2015. The goal of the initiative is to “demonstrate that agriculture, and in particular agricultural soils, can play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned.”

If the carbon level in the top 30-40 cm of soils were increased by 0.4 percent, the annual increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be stopped, concludes the website of the 4 for 1000 initiative.

The carbon farming pilot in Maharashtra will make a small contribution to the global goal of improving 1.5 million km2 of degraded and deforested land by 2020. If the 20 farmers participating in the pilot practice conservation agriculture on all of their land—rather than just half an acre—they should be able to store 2,000 tons of CO2 in their soil over three years, says D’Silva.

Under the project, farmers would be compensated for increases in soil carbon by contributions from individuals, private companies, and NGOs concerned about climate change.

One of the contributors is Prabhakar Tamboli, a professor of Agriculture at the University of Maryland. “This is the first baby step to find a solution to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change,” he observes. “In addition, the project will introduce environmentally sound agronomic practices in the fields of farmers and help increase their incomes.”

Initially, the ‘carbon check’ to farmers is expected to be about Rs 9,000 (US$128) over three years based on half-acre experiments. But this could change if the project is expanded after the pilot phase.

The Saguna Rural Foundation, headed by Bhadsavale, will provide technical support to farmers, collect soil samples, and distribute the carbon checks at year’s end based on increases in soil carbon. The verification and validation of the soil increases would be conducted independently by Zenith Energy Climate Foundation, Hyderabad.

The Director of the foundation, Mohan Reddy, believes that “verification and validation by a third party (such as us) would bring credibility to the process of measurement of the carbon stored in the soil and quantification of CO2 reduction.”

Reddy has participated in a number of projects requiring measurement of greenhouse gases under terms of the Kyoto Protocol, but admits that establishing baselines and measuring carbon storage in agriculture, a new activity, could be a challenge.

The farmers involved in carbon farming, however, are up to the challenge. Parshuram Agivale, a pioneer farmer who has been practicing no-till rice cultivation for six years, says SRT has changed his life. “My workload has decreased, agriculture production has increased, and income has gone up. I have been able to send my daughter to a nursing school and she is now a nurse.”

“Even though I am uneducated, I am now happy to share my experience and educate other farmers on the merits of zero till and SRT.”

Sitting under a banyan tree on his 2-acre farm, Agilve, along with other farmers participating in the project, shared ideas and excitement on being among the first to take up carbon farming. They recognized they were making a contribution not only for their children but also for the planet by storing carbon in their soils.

Reposted with permission from Food Tank

Study: White Oak Pastures Beef Reduces Atmospheric Carbon

BLUFFTON, Ga., May 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Will Harris is many things to many people. To chefs and foodies, he is a legendary farmer producing some of the world’s best pasture-raised meats infused with the terroir of south Georgia. To athletes, body-hackers, and health-conscious consumers, he is the owner of White Oak Pastures, which ships humanely-raised, non-GMO, grassfed proteins to their doorsteps. To the communities surrounding Bluffton, Georgia, he is one of the last good ole’ boys and the largest private employer in the county. To his colleagues in agriculture, he’s a renegade and an inspiration. But Will Harris’ legacy might turn out to be something else entirely. He may be remembered as the cattleman who figured out how to enlist cows in future generations’ struggle to reverse climate change.

Industrial-Sized Cow Farts

Almost everyone these days has been educated that carbon emissions from industrialized beef production are a startlingly large contributor to man-made climate change.

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Climate Change Being Fuelled by Soil Damage – Report

Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say.

There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming.

This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say.

Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering.

Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.

The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans.

The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems.

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How Will We Produce Food in the New Era of Climate Extremes? The Solution Lies in The Soil

At the recent Nebraska Farmers Union Convention Dr. Martha Shulski, our State Climatologist who co-authored the 4th National Climate Assessment, eerily foretold to a large group of farmers that we are moving into a new era of weather extremes. Dr. Shulski also noted it was likely that as farmers, we would need to consider a change in our farming practices due to extreme climatic events if we expected to maintain sustainable businesses. Only 3 months later the 2019 Bomb Cyclone hit the midwest, and a perfect storm of conditions led to a series of catastrophic flooding events that cost our farmers millions of dollars. Many of these costs took years of sweat investment and will never be recovered.

As the water recedes, at least for now, Nebraskans face an unknown climatic future. While the future may be uncertain, there is no doubt the recent events have sent a ripple across the Great Plains.

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