Yesterday, the AGree Climate, Food, and Agriculture Dialogue (CFAD) released a new paper: Recognizing Early Innovators: Recommendations for Maintaining and Expanding Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices. The paper provides insight and recommendations on the challenges facing “early innovators”—leaders in conservation agriculture who have already tested and implemented climate-smart practices—as the U.S. works to develop a more resilient and profitable agricultural system.
This morning, we heard from Minnesota farmer and AGree advisor Kristin Weeks Duncanson during her testimony for today’s House Agriculture Committee hearing: A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.
In the paper, CFAD outlines the following recommendations:
- The USDA Economic Research Service should conduct a literature review of existing research to understand the economics around producer motivations for implementing and maintaining climate-smart practices.
- The Federal Crop Insurance Program should recognize the risk-reducing benefits of conservation practices.
- Agricultural lenders should recognize the economic benefits of conservation practice adoption, including improved soil health and reduced agricultural risk, when offering loan terms to producers.
- USDA should continue to explore the development of climate-smart commodity markets that reward early innovators through new market mechanisms. Supporting markets that preference agricultural commodities produced using practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon would strengthen the business case for climate-smart agriculture.
- Ecosystem markets that allow producers to generate both carbon credits and other ecosystem services credits from the same project should be explored to create stacked incentives to expand and maintain existing conservation practices.
- Food and beverage companies should consider how early innovators can be included in supply chain sustainability programs to reduce scope 3 emissions.
- USDA and Congress should systematically work to expand and improve existing conservation programs, drawing on CFAD’s recommendations for investing in working lands conservation.
- USDA should offer technical assistance to states that wish to create programs that give producers who adopt or have adopted climate-smart agricultural practices regulatory certainty on compliance with environmental safeguard policies (e.g., Clean Water Act requirements, Endangered Species Act). As our country takes a whole-of-government approach to address climate change, the food and agriculture and forestry sectors must be at the table working to expand climate-smart practices that mitigate climate impacts, stimulate economic growth, and support productive working lands across the nation. Further, our national agriculture-climate policy should ensure that the progress of early innovators is recognized while simultaneously engaging new growers in adopting and expanding the use of climate-smart agricultural practices.