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Conservation Tools Help Producers Make Positive Impacts on Changing Climate

Posted by Jocelyn Benjamin, USDA in Climate Conservation Forestry
Jul 29, 2021
No-till corn
Building organic matter is one of many conservation practices America’s farmers and ranchers are using to help put the nation on track to a healthier and more resilient environment.

America’s farmers and ranchers are helping put the nation on track to a healthier and more resilient environment in the face of a changing climate. While agriculture only contributes 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it offers a variety of opportunities to reduce emissions and cut carbon from the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to help producers become even better conservation stewards by providing the tools they need to do the job.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) support Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda, which aims to better align USDA’s resources, programs and research to give farmers the tools they need to become leaders in addressing climate challenges.

Putting solutions on the ground, NRCS conservation practices and innovative technologies make it easier for farmers and ranchers to adopt systems that help improve their bottom line while reducing greenhouse gas emissions with minimal economic impact.

From no-till and cover crops to water use and nutrient management and rotational grazing systems, NRCS conservation practices help producers make positive impacts to climate change while keeping working lands healthful and boosting rural economies.

With proven soil health practices, for example, producers are minimizing runoff, saving on inputs and using soil as a carbon sink to balance atmospheric carbon levels with little soil disturbance.

Even forest management helps protect the nation’s landscape. By improving forest ecosystems with thinning and prescribed burn practices, producers reduce wildfire risk while growing carbon storage in new vegetation. Innovations such as biochar enable producers to use woody debris after wildfires to create a durable charcoal that enhances soil water storage and sustainably traps carbon.

With precision agriculture, technology enhances existing practices to help producers collect data on changing field conditions. This allows them to precisely target conservation solutions for improved crop production. Producers are reducing nitrous oxide emissions using precision ag systems such as GPS to improve chemical distribution and fertilizer efficiency.

Through FSA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), producers restore, enhance and protect non-working landscapes, improve water quality, boost soil health and enhance wildlife habitat. Producers are creating carbon-rich soils by converting idle, less productive land into vegetative cover such as native grasses, wildlife plantings or trees. As they grow, plants and grass-cover help protect topsoil while returning carbon to the soil and plants.

As conservation stewards across the nation embrace practices and innovative technologies to adapt to climate change, their operations are becoming more efficient. They are keeping costs low and productivity high while improving their bottom lines.

USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan and conservation programs to help agricultural producers weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.

Category/Topic: Climate Conservation Forestry

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Jeanne Johnson
Apr 22, 2020

NRDC and Crp are both good but fail in volume and leadership.

Debbie Moreland
Apr 22, 2020

I do wish you would make this capable of sharing with conservation districts. Great information.

Jerry M
Apr 22, 2020

This is all hype! Climates have always changed and will continue to change regardless of what we do! Back in the 70's while still in grade school, seldom a year went by where we weren't planting spring wheat in late March or early April. This has been just about impossible for at least 15 years! Our summers our cooler, springs later and a nice fall for harvest is quite the exception now. Quite the opposite of 30+ years ago. Please stop the propaganda!

Charles Graham Burke
Apr 22, 2020

The practice of bulldozing and using heavy equipment to slash down field margins once filled with native trees, native shrubs and native wildflowers and some surviving natural insect pest predators coupled with intensive mowing on highway gradients with thins soils by highway department contractors, energy companies, and bored landowners and has stripped our soils of microbes needed for soil health, channelized ditches filled with masses of high velocity runoff which sweep away organic materials and the eggs of native vertebrates and invertebrate animals. into the rivers engorged with floodwater from predatory forest practices, i.e., clear cutting and left us eith near zero natural capital. I have not seen a single private or public landowner do any significant restoration of the problems they have created. Instead our formerly crystal clear water rivers are filthy with eroded soils after every storm. Worse, the blow-back is Johnson Grass and/or similar agro-aliens for miles along major highways and lifeless edges of manicured farm fields where wildflowers once dominated the landscape. The last tree removed from my farm has cost over $15,000 worth of piping to replace the water control provided by a single tree. Get serious-burning down forests to create organic material decades from the burn. We once had everything and have destroyed and degraded it. One farm owner's opinion.

Concerned Farmer
Apr 22, 2020

I agree - Farmers, of all people, certainly know that the climate changes.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever.

George Childs
Apr 23, 2020

But let's not use this partial solution as an excuse to avoid the more effective programs which are also available to us but might
be more painful economically, at least in the short term.