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Agriculture is on the front lines of a changing climate. Compared to a generation ago, we are experiencing greater weather extremes, from recurrent 100-year floods to severe and prolonged droughts to greater heat waves that threaten workers, crops and livestock. As temperatures continue to rise, new pest and disease pressures are impacting crop yields and quality. As farmers and ranchers, we are accustomed to adapting to change, but the greater extremes we are experiencing today are unprecedented. Our rural communities lack the resources and infrastructure, making them especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.
However, farmers also are important participants in creating solutions to the climate crisis. Many of the farming practices that improve farm resilience and decrease agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from indigenous traditions from around the world. Agroforestry systems, perennial pastures, and other highly diversified systems that keep living roots in the soil year-round have been practiced for millenia. Many are now picking up these systems as solutions to climate change.
NSAC values these and related solutions to climate change. Solutions that explicitly value the people and non-human organisms that are vital to agriculture. See below to learn more about our values and principles on agriculture and climate change, as well as our policy and practice recommendations based on the latest climate science.
- The Agriculture Resilience Act offers a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 by investing in and empowering farmers. Take action today by asking your Members of Congress to cosponsor the bill!
- 2023 Blog post on Agriculture Resilience Act
- 2023 ARA section-by-section
- Press clips from Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience
- Climate & Agriculture Legislative Roundup – Fall 2022 Edition
- Climate & Agriculture Legislative Roundup – Fall 2020 Edition
- Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge
- NSAC Principles on Agriculture and Climate Change
- Farmer & Rancher Letter on Climate Change and Agriculture
- In 2020 NSAC published a multi-part blog series on climate change and agriculture. Read them here:
- Building a Resilient Future in Food & Farming: Goals of the ARA
- Potential for Carbon Markets in Agriculture to Address Climate Change
- A Climate-Friendly Approach to Managing Manure
- Combating the Climate Crisis Through Conservation
- Regional and Long-Term Agricultural Research Build Climate Resilience
- Federal Support for States & Tribes Building Climate Resilience Through Soil Health
- Grazing for Climate
NSAC Climate Values Statement
Climate change is one of the foremost challenges to agriculture we face. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is committed to advancing policies that holistically address the climate crisis in the agriculture sector.
Our vision: An agriculture that is completely interwoven with agroecological principles including diversity, synergies, efficiencies, resilience, recycling, co-creation and knowledge sharing, equity, inclusion, dignity, justice, cultural food traditions, responsible governance, and circular and solidarity economies. The agricultural system would allow participation from all who care to farm in safe, humane, sustainable, community-connected, and economically viable ways. It would also provide for extensive consumer connections to the systems that provide their food in a way that allows all consumers choices of healthful foods.
NSAC’s approach to solutions to the climate crisis to and for agriculture is undergirded by the following values:
Dignity and Diversity of Life
All living things have intrinsic value. We are part of an ecosystem and exist in community, connected with and dependent on land, water, air, animals, and other people, all which require our care and gratitude. They are not commodities to exploit.
Soil, nature, and people are diverse, and that diversity builds strength and resilience.
We believe in being good neighbors. We cultivate a culture of care and look out for each other and the earth. Farming needs to prioritize the well-being of the land, air, water, and people/community. We are stewards for future generations.
True individual freedom incorporates shared responsibility. It is informed and guided by our relationships and respect for the land, water, and people.
Knowledge and Co-Creation
For both natural and social scientific questions related to agriculture, action on climate change should be based on knowledge established through long-term and continued testing of hypotheses. Such knowledge may be established through conventional “Western” science or through the long-term experience with and experimentation in traditional and indigenous systems of production conducted by traditional and indigenous experts.
Co-creation of knowledge, drawing on the range of expertise available across all communities–traditional, indigenous, and conventional scientific–provides opportunities for thoughtful, grounded innovations in agriculture that serve for the creation of systems that are better prepared for and responsive to changing climatic conditions.
Relying on tested knowledge also means acknowledging the full breadth of knowledge that has been developed. For example, with extensive research demonstrating the climate-friendly qualities of organic agriculture, policymakers and agencies must replace old narratives about organic agriculture with those that underscore its clear ecological benefits.
Knowledge and skill are place-based. Skilled farm practice relies on long-term relationships with soils, climate, and communities.
Agriculture in the United States is based on a foundation of theft of land from indigenous peoples and theft of labor from enslaved people, many of whom were kidnapped from Africa. The original Farm Bill policies of the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act and associated policies emerging during the New Deal were deeply intertwined with this troubled history, including in their exclusion of agricultural laborers from wage protections. Land loss by people of color, particularly Black Americans, has continued throughout the 20th and early 21st century.
Truth-telling means that we must confront this history, and its ramifying effects throughout agricultural organizations well beyond the government, including our own organization. Repairing the legacy of past discrimination and healing our current relationships with Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) within and beyond our organization must be a key element of our climate solutions.
Truth-telling also means recognition that many of the most ecologically-valuable practices were developed and long maintained by BIPOC, in some cases for thousands of years. Repairing our relationships must include raising up the expertise of these farmers and ranchers and learning from them when they have the desire and capacity to share their skills and knowledge. We need all people on board to build the best possible solutions to our greatest ecological crises–climate change and biodiversity loss.
Truth-telling also includes creating policies that uplift BIPOC expertise and repair the wrongs our government has perpetrated. So, truth-telling also means respecting and honoring the traditions of those with long experience of the land.
Agency and Self-Determination
Many agricultural climate leaders and experts in highly-ecologically-appropriate practices are farmers and ranchers of color. They must have a meaningful role in shaping policy and the future of agriculture more broadly.
Agency and self-determination for farmworkers means ensuring them the choice to work without hazardous chemicals. It means providing options for safe and affordable housing. And it means offering wages that allow them to choose their paths forward.
Access and Agency
Agency in farm and agriculture decisions means little without clear and sustained land tenure. In addition, farmers need material support for all aspects of farming via grants and credit. And in a period of rising climate disasters, farmers need insurance coverage that is appropriately targeted to diverse production systems like many of those long shepherded by farmers of color.
Holism + Agroecology
Solutions to the climate crisis should be solutions to the related crises in agriculture. Holism is about connections, and about each part benefitting all the rest. Agroecology, as an approach, views systems through a holistic lens. Agroecology and holism as a climate solution include:
- comprehensive ecosystem benefits that improve soil health, water quality, water availability, air quality, habitats for diverse living organisms, and overall ecosystem resilience and regeneration;
- comprehensive community benefits that improve the well-being of communities broadly, but with attention to the improving the lives of fenceline communities and communities of color who have been disproportionately affected by the negative impacts of industrial agriculture and climate change;
- comprehensive nutritional benefits in the diversity of foods grown, including supporting expanded production of culturally appropriate foods
Public support for public well-being
The choices of farmers and ranchers shape much about the well-being of our environment, our communities, and our public health. Because such forms of well-being support us all, and offer us all better lives now and better prospects for our future, we must, in turn, support the efforts that farmers and ranchers make to be better stewards of our world. Public support, managed and financed by government systems to which we all contribute, is a highly effective means to ensuring that we continue to build farm systems with the highest levels of ecological, health, and community well-being.
Public goods should be managed through democratic means, with all people offered an equal opportunity to shape the government that represents us. Government and public institutions, in turn, have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of all life.
ARA Farmer Letter
The next farm bill is being written now, and we need it to address climate change. Farmers need resources like funding, research, and risk management to implement climate-friendly farming practices. The Agriculture Resilience Act asks Congress to implement these solutions in the next farm bill. Sign on to show your support now! Read our ARA farmer letter.