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How Regenerative Agriculture Could Be Key to the Green New Deal

With the 2018 mid-term election and the prospect of 2020, people are finally beginning electing more climate realists over fossil fuel apologists. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her band of newly elected progressive congresswomen, and Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician and likely presidential candidate, have proposed a Green New Deal. This plan would put the government’s economic resources behind a definitive move to renewable energy and an end to fossil fuel dominance. With the recent IPCC report predicting that the earth will reach critical thresholds as early as 2030, there’s not a moment to waste.

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I began covering the grass roots movement against fracking in 2009— five years before the Paris Climate Agreement cited methane release from drilling activities as a major contributor to climate change. Just one year after the Agreement, in 2016, climate was a forgotten step-child, near absent from the debates, primaries, and election. And yet two years later, Americans are now forced to face up to the reality that we may only have twelve more years to mitigate.

What was once predicted as a century away, and next slated to occur fifty years from now  will now occur within the lifetimes of many Baby Boomers, while cutting short the lives of most succeeding generations. The time is past for accepting excuses, denials, and delays. Putting the Green New Deal into play is a top priority for human survival.

But fuel extraction activities are not the only major source of methane’s harm to the atmosphere and climate. And while it’s essential to cease destabilizing the atmosphere and living systems, the next step is repairing the damage and restoring earth to eco-functionality.

Fortunately, new land management practices, refined over the last thirty years, under the rubric, “regenerative agriculture,” are showing tremendous promise in restoring the earth’s disrupted ecologies and climate by:

  1. Reducing (or even eliminating) the second largest contributor to methane release into the atmosphere—industrial food agriculture. This is a major way to slow and prevent climate change
  2. Pulling released carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil and holding it there. This is a major way to reverse climate change
  3. Restoring damaged land so that going forward, it will no longer release carbon, evaporate water, flood, burn, or contaminate plants grown on it. This is a major way to prevent both climate change and other future disruptions.

Regen Ag has another benefit. Since 70% of Americans support universal health care, adding a New Food Deal wing to the Green New Deal would make healthy foods more affordable— and directly promote health and reduce health care costs. For the last three decades, the best health care advice has never deviated: Eat more nutrient rich, less pesticide contaminated food. It’s great to exhort people to eat better, but why not make that economically feasible—a food and health justice issue. Middle and lower income people who can’t afford healthy vegetables, uncontaminated dairy, and non-CAFO meat are stuck eating unhealthy foods produced from government subsidized commodity food crops, like corn and soy.

Economically and environmentally unsustainable, the for-profit conventional food and ag industries are not a good bet for future food security. If over the last forty years, this model was so very successful at “feeding the world,” as the PR claims state, why should tax payer dollars still be required to subsidize this form of agriculture?

As part of a New Food Deal, we could erase these inequities by shifting land use, investment, and subsidy patterns away from corporate giants and towards regenerative agriculture’s local networks of farmers and food growers. Building food security across the country region-by-region will better address future climate disruption than expecting unresponsive monopolies with cheap food and expensive advertising to do it. Rural economic development has the added benefit of putting a safety net under rural populations maligned and rendered invisible by neoliberal policies and politicians.

Over the last few decades, organic food farmers and land managers have pioneered an agricultural and business plan for growing healthier, more nutrient-dense foods while restoring damaged lands to a natural carbon-storing ecology. Putting a price on carbon may provide a temporary economic incentive to reduce fuel use, but it’s far from a comprehensive long-term solution. It turns out that the earth itself is the best and most climate-saving carbon bank. Holding carbon is what soil naturally does— and the interest the greater public can draw from this bank is: healthy food for all. According to Regeneration International, “Just transitioning 10 percent of agricultural production to best practice regenerative systems will sequester enough CO2 to reverse climate change and restore the global climate.”

Regen Ag is currently being adopted on a local level, farmer to farmer, all over the world, but there are economic and educational barriers to the transition from soil-depleting, methane releasing, and pesticide-ridden agriculture.

Let’s complement the Green New Deal with a New Food Deal that builds out a new regenerative food economy, putting people to work recovering land, growing food, building food sourcing supply chains, operating local Mom and Pop grocery stories, and setting up early adopters to learn and teach growing, management, nutrition, food prep, recycling, and more in regions all over the country— and the world.

For too long the energy and agricultural industries have successfully evaded regulation while dumping their externalities on the public commons. We must reverse that. Both the Green New Deal and the New Food Deal can reorient the basics— and put Americans, our democracy, and the earth on the path to health.

 

Heal the Soil, Cool the Climate

Back when I first started at Green America, in 2000, I remember our president/CEO Alisa Gravitz often cautioning those of us on the editorial team against using the term “end” when it came to climate change. There simply wasn’t a solution available that would “end” or “stop” the climate crisis, she would say. The best the world could hope for was collective action that would curb the worst of its effects. We’d get excited about a set of climate solutions and write that they could help “end global warming,” and Alisa would shake her head sadly and ask us to strike the word “end” for accuracy.

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That’s not to say that she wasn’t optimistic about the potential of renewable energy—particularly solar—to make a dent in climate change. Or that she wasn’t hopeful that businesses could come up with some powerful innovations.

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Top 15 Regenerative Agriculture Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2018

Congratulations to every blogger that has made this Top Regenerative Agriculture Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Regenerative Agriculture blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

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1 Regeneration International
2 Kiss The Ground | Regenerative Agriculture
3 Propagate, Discover Regeneration | Agriculture & Environment Blog
4 PastureMap Blog
5 The Druid’s Garden
6 Abundant Design
7 SOIL Haiti Blog
8 Food Forest Farm Blog
9 Frank Holzman Blog
10 Mazi Farm Blog
11 Farmer Angus
12 Regenerative Landscapes Australia Blog
13 Frock & Wellies | Regenerative Garden Blog

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Chance Encounter Leads to Tropical Ag Conference and Long-Term Commitment to Regenerating Belize

On November 13 – 15, Regeneration Belize and Regeneration International (RI) will co-host the Tropical Agriculture Conference in Belmopan.

The event, which will take place at the National Agriculture & Trade Show grounds, will feature a combination of international speakers and local experts on everything from regenerative poultry production and beekeeping to edible landscaping and greenhouse management.

Photo credit: Regeneration International

Regeneration Belize, an official RI Alliance, aims to transform Belize into a leading producer of nutrient-rich agricultural products and a showcase for carbon sequestration through soil regenerative practices.

A relatively new nonprofit, Regeneration Belize grew out of a casual encounter about a year ago (December 2017), at the ACRES USA Annual Eco-Ag Conference in Ohio. It was there that Ina Sanchez, director of research for the Belize Ministry of Agriculture, and Beth Roberson, of The Belize Ag Report, first met RI’s international director, Andre Leu.

Leu, who spoke at the conference along with Ronnie Cummins and Vandana Shiva—both founding members of RI—explained RI’s mission and how the international nonprofit was working to fulfill that mission, on a global scale. Intrigued, Sanchez and Roberson invited Leu to Belize.

Before long, Leu had offered to come to Belize in 2018 and present a three-day farmers’ workshop.

One thing led to another, and in February 2018, RI’s Latin America director, Ercilia Sahores, and RI network member Ricardo Romero traveled to Belize for discussions with about 20 people, including Belizean farmers, consumers, business leaders and NGO members, about how to spread the word in Belize about regenerative agriculture. Also attending was Belizean Senator Osmany Salas, who represents all NGOs in the legislature, and now serves on Regeneration Belize’s Advisory Group.

Sahores, Romero and others met with officials of Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture, including CEO Jose Alpuche, CAO Andrew Harrison, and Belarmino Esquivel, head of Extension Services. During those meetings, the ministry offered the use of the National Agriculture and Trade Show Grounds in the capital city Belmopan for an agriculture conference later in 2018. The conference planners agreed to have to include information for every type of Belizean farmer—small and large, conventional and organic. They also agreed to no admission fees, so that costs wouldn’t prevent interested parties from attending.

Originally, there was no vision to form a separate NGO for Belize. But it was later decided that a nonprofit would provide a vehicle for raising funds for future work, including the conference. Now as an NGO, Regeneration Belize can host an annual conference, in addition to ongoing workshops and other events useful to the agricultural sector.

For Regeneration Belize’s premier conference, RI has provided six international speakers, who will share proven methods and practices for the tropics. The speakers and their topics are: Andre Leu on topsoils; Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin on regenerative poultry; Dr. Alvaro Zapata of Fundación Cipav on integrated livestock with silvopastoral systems; Elder Adrian Calderon on regenerative beekeeping; and Ronnie Cummins on regenerative food, farming and land use as the next stages of organic and agricultural ecology.

Regeneration Belize selected 11 local experts to round out the two days of presentations, 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 5 different pavilions. Local experts will present on: medicinal plant gardening; native crops; biofertilizers; watershed management; biochar, turmeric & vanilla production; edible landscaping; greenhouse management and agroforestry. Wednesday sessions will be in English and Kekchi Maya. Thursday’s presentations will include some in English and others in Spanish

 

Learn more about the conference presentations here and here.

 

Beth Roberson and Dottie Feucht are founding members of Regeneration Belize.

For more information about Regeneration Belize and Regeneration International (RI), sign up RI’s newsletter.

 

 

Dirt Rich: Healthy Soil Movement Gains Ground in Farm Country

Jesse Hall is sold on regenerative agriculture.

“It crumbles, and it looks like chocolate cake,” Hall said. “Once it’s got the consistency of chocolate cake, and it’s spongy, that’s what you want.”

And it’s got more life in it, too, from invisible bacteria to earthworms.

Photo credit: Pexels

“I can’t even dig up an inch without digging up an earthworm,” Hall said. “I feel bad, because I don’t want to hurt the poor guys. I always try to pack ’em back in the ground, try to cover them up — you know, like I’m tucking them in.”

Hall has embraced regenerative agriculture, the approach to farming built around four basic rules: Never till the soil; use cover crops so soil is never bare; grow a more diverse mix of plants and graze livestock on fields after harvest or before planting.

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Soil and Seaweed: Farming Our Way to a Climate Solution

Scientists have issued a dire warning: to maintain a habitable planet we must dramatically reduce atmospheric carbon in the next decade. Nature has been warning us too, lately in the forms of climate change–intensified Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is freezing fuel-efficiency standards, propping up the coal industry, trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan and disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisory boards.

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In the absence of U.S. federal leadership on climate, what state, local, community or corporate solutions can be rapidly scaled? As a farmer and a marine biologist, and as mother and daughter, we have had two decades of dinner table conversations about the connections between agriculture and the ocean and about the alarming trends in soil health, ocean health and climate change. These discussions have converged on an underappreciated solution: regenerative farming of both land and sea.

 

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Regenerative Agriculture: A Better Way to Farm?

Twelve years ago, Ryan Boyd faced a wreck that changed the way he farms today.

“I had big plans,” said Boyd, who farms with his wife and parents north of Brandon, Man. “We had a nice crop coming, and then the weather went against us and the markets dropped.

“The long and short of it was we had a bad year, and I figured we needed to make some changes if I was going to carve a living out on the farm.”

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For Boyd, that meant shifting some of the practices on their 2,000-acre mixed farm to be more sustainable.

“We’re trying to practise what we would call regenerative agriculture — trying to build a profitable, resilient system that’s maintaining a good level of production while reducing the amount of inputs we’re relying on,” Boyd said while hosting a group of visiting farm journalists last month.

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Look after the Soil, save the Earth: Farming in Australia’s Unrelenting Climate

From the red soil of his hometown in the Western Australian outback town of Wiluna, Michael Jeffery very nearly became a farmer.

He opted for being a soldier instead, serving in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After a distinguished military career, he served as governor of his home state of Western Australia and governor general of Australia – who represents the Queen, Australia’s head of state.

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So he doesn’t enter public debate lightly. But he is highly exercised by his latest topic: restoring Australia’s ancient soils.

It was a world first when he was appointed by Julia Gillard’s Labor government as the first national soil advocate in 2012 and his term was extended under the former National party leader and agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce.

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We’re Altering the Climate So Severely That We’ll Soon Face Apocalyptic Repercussions. Sucking Carbon Dioxide Out of the Air Could Save Us.

Deadly hurricanes seem to be becoming more frequent, 12 of the 15 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in the last two decades, and cities like Cape Town, South Africa are facing severe water shortages.

This isn’t a coincidence.

These kinds of dangerous weather events are linked to carbon-dioxide emissions. In human history, the atmosphere has never had as much CO2 in it as it does today. Burning fossil fuels for energy, clearing forests, and demolishing wetlands all contribute to the problem.

CO2 stops heat from leaving the planet, which is why Earth’s average temperature is a degree Celsius higher than it used to be. Now we’re on track to see so much warming over the next several decades that apocalyptic repercussions could result.

recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that just another half-degree temperature rise — which is predicted to happen by the year 2040.

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Creating a Carbon-based Local Economy

How can local economies value carbon farming practices in finished consumer goodsFibershed represents a 160-member producer community, spanning from the Oregon border to San Luis Obispo and from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra foothills, that is managing working landscapes strategically to sequester carbon. Burgess gave this talk, transcribed and edited below, as part of the Bioneers Carbon Farming Series.

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How do basic human needs – food, fuel, flora, fiber – get met within an economically and ecologically strategic geography?

There are 25 million hectares of rangelands in California and a key question is whether we can manage them to help lower Earth’s temperature. Most rangeland systems have very low amounts of carbon. California has lost around 40% of its carbon in its rangelands due to the loss of perennials. These soils are in a massive carbon debt.

Fibershed is organizing place-based economies around carbon.

 

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