(Posted Tue. Jul 30th, 2019)
A standing-room-only crowd attended a briefing: “An Overview of Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry” in Washington, D.C. today to hear experts like Executive Director of the Soil Health Partnership Dr. Shefali Mehta, highlight the agricultural practices farmers are adopting that can help mitigate climate change.
The briefing was hosted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and targeted a diverse group of staffers interested in learning more about how farming practices are helping make farmers more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
“Practices such as reducing or eliminating tillage and growing cover crops can improve soil health, and they also hold the potential to increase carbon sequestration and storage and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production,” Mehta said. “In addition to their role in climate change mitigation, these practices can make agricultural land—and farm operations—more resilient in the face of climate change.”
SHP collaborates with National Corn Growers Association and more than 100 partner organizations including commodity associations like the recently joined National Wheat Foundation, government, nonprofits and private companies. Farmers work with SHP field managers to measure the impacts of practice changes on their lands. In-depth data is collected to support farmers’ decisions and understand the impact on soil, yield, input use and the farmer’s bottom line. SHP also examines the near-term risks associated with the adoption of these practices and the long-term risk reduction and increased resiliency that comes from these practices.
Mehta noted, integrating these soil health or smart climate practices into a farm operation involves adjusting many management and input use decisions, and it can take time to get right. But the challenge is not holding farmers back. SHP is growing quickly because of farmer interest and they now partner with over 220 diverse farmers across 15 states.
“Our goal is to meet the needs of our farmers as they add more “tools” to their toolkit in the face of changing economic conditions, changes in the structure of agriculture in the United States, and a changing climate,” she said. “Closing the knowledge gap will also require leveraging data more effectively to answer questions about practice outcomes, whether it’s carbon sequestration or economics.”
Some key steps include ensuring farmers have access to the best information to make the right decisions for their operations and providing financial and technical assistance as farmers work to scale up proven practices.
The Soil Health Partnership (or SHP as it is known) began in 2014, when The Nature Conservancy, Monsanto and the Environmental Defense Fund, shared the vision of developing a farmer-led research network measuring the impacts of soil health practices on working farms. True to their vision of being led by farmers—and existing to serve farmers—the Soil Health Partnership partnered with NCGA and continues to be administered as our flagship sustainability program.