The National Farmers Union (NFU) recently announced its new Climate Change Policy Advisory Panel (CCPAP) to help address climate change through educational programming, outreach, and climate-related legislative work.
Industrial agriculture accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as well as the destruction of topsoil, which is necessary for growing food and sequestering carbon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The panel is looking at the role agriculture plays in climate change—both as part of the problem and the solution.
“We’ve got to give farmers and ranchers tools to help deal with these extreme weather conditions,” panel member Clay Pope, Oklahoma farmer, and rancher and founder of CPS Consulting, tells Food Tank.
The panel hopes to give producers and those in the agriculture sector the resources to better weather the effects of extreme droughts, an increase in soil runoff, and soil erosion while helping reduce input costs and increase yields.
To address the effects of climate change, many panel members are pushing for more regenerative agriculture practices. “In my opinion, it should be the food system of the future,” Hana Fullmer, panel member and co-founder of Tierra Vida Farms tells Food Tank.
Both Fullmer and Pope, who have been practicing regenerative agriculture on their land for years, say that shifting from a sustainable approach to a regenerative approach that prioritizes soil health will help mitigate climate change.
They admit, however, that the shift from conventional agriculture to regenerative comes with challenges, including initial loss of yields. “We need to have safety nets in place for farmers and ranchers,” Fullmer tells Food Tank. With the panel, they hope to push for support of farmers and ranchers during these transitions.
And while all farmers are experiencing climate change, they are not all experiencing it in the same way. Farmers in the southwest, for example, are facing wildfires and droughts while farmers in the midwest are experiencing wetter winters.
NFU hopes the panel will reflect the diversity of American agriculture by including organic and conventional farmers, specialty crop growers, ranchers, and renewable energy users.
“The diversity is a really big strength of the panel,” Fullmer tells Food Tank. “That is the goal of the panel: to make sure that the diversity of producers are at the table collaborating together and making sure that the proposals and the bills and the solutions actually being put forward make sense on the ground.”
The panelists are hopeful that they will be able to work together to further the discussion and create a positive impact.
“Whether it’s informing policymakers and opinion shapers or if it’s just working with farmers and ranchers to help them understand the role we have to play and the challenges we’re facing, I think we can get there,” Pope tells Food Tank.