America’s farmers and ranchers are leading the way in climate-smart practices that reduce emissions, enrich the soil and protect our water and air, all while producing more food, fiber and renewable fuel than ever before. U.S. agriculture contributes just 10% to overall GHG emissions, far less than other major industries, and plays an active role in enhancing wildlife and absorbing carbon. At Farm Bureau, we are proud of agriculture’s sustainability story, and we believe the future of agriculture is bright as we work together to further climate-smart solutions that protect our resources, farms and communities.
Sustainability and efficiency on the farm go hand-in-hand. Farmers today are doing more with less thanks to innovation and technology. In fact, U.S. agriculture would have needed nearly 100 million more acres 30 years ago to match today’s production levels. Smarter farm equipment, precision ag tools and biotechnology are helping farmers care for their crops, while using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
As farm efficiency goes up, emissions are going down in the livestock sector. Although livestock emissions get a lot of attention in discussions around sustainability, they make up less than 4% of overall emissions in the U.S., and those numbers are declining thanks to improvements in feed and production.
Farmers are also improving efficiency and promoting healthy soil by planting cover crops and adopting practices that reduce and, in some cases, eliminate the need for tilling—or turning the soil over. Healthier soil also means cleaner air and water, as farmers trap carbon in the soil and reduce runoff with these practices.
Agriculture can also play a role in offsetting emissions beyond the farm gate. From climate-smart farming practices to voluntary management of forests, grasslands, wetlands and croplands, farmers are not only reducing their footprint, but also are actively absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. According to the EPA, land management practices alone removed 764 million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere in 2018. That is equal to taking 165 million vehicles off the road for a year. The demand for carbon offsets from agriculture has grown significantly in recent years, but the process is still confusing and cumbersome, which then limits farmers’, ranchers’ and foresters’ participation. Often, farmers who want to participate have to hire private parties to help them adopt the right conservation practices and verify that certain processes and protocols were followed in implementing those practices. As these markets are being developed, Farm Bureau is working closely with industry partners and lawmakers to identify solutions to ensure these markets are voluntary and economically viable for farmers and ranchers and that they go hand-in-hand with climate-smart practices in place on the farm.
Market Intel: Sustainability Markets, Part 1: Agricultural Ecosystem Credit Markets – The Primer
With so many emerging ideas and platforms, it’s important to explore how carbon markets are developing and operating. Read More
Farmers are embracing and growing renewable energy. Biofuels are an American-grown energy success story, reducing our country’s emissions and increasing our energy independence. Over the last decade, nearly 3 trillion pounds of corn have been used to produce clean, renewable ethanol for blending into motor fuels. The reduction in GHGs from the use of ethanol and biodiesel in 2018 was equal to taking 18 million cars off the road.
Beyond biofuels, farms and ranches are embracing a variety of clean energy sources, harnessing natural resources and turning farm waste into fuel. In the last five years, farmers and ranchers have put in 132% more renewable energy sources including geothermal, solar panels, windmills, hydro systems and methane digesters.
Viewpoints: Farmers Are Mitigating Climate Change: Partners Needed
When the question arises of how we are going to feed the world’s 9 billion people in a climate that seems increasingly volatile and extreme, all eyes turn to U.S. agriculture, and rightfully so. Read More
Ag Research and Innovation
The only way agriculture will be able to achieve the dramatic goals being discussed today is through investments in research to develop the next generation of technology and practices to help us take our efforts to the next level. We need researchers and innovators working on tomorrow’s tools today if we are going to continue to reduce net emissions across the food chain. Many of the innovations that have helped farmers and ranchers significantly reduce their environmental footprint in the last several decades began in agricultural research labs at America’s land-grant universities, but funding for these programs has declined in recent years. The U.S. has dropped from being the global leader in funding research and development in the last decade, and it’s time to bridge that gap before we also lose our place as the leading producer of sustainable food, fiber and renewable energy.
The latest innovation and advances in technology can’t translate to making a difference on the ground, however, without reliable broadband. If America’s farms and rural communities are going to continue to be sustainable both economically and environmentally, we must ensure that all Americans have access to the internet speeds essential to survive and thrive today.
Viewpoints: The Future of Agriculture at Home and Abroad
Farmers are not alone in taking on the challenge of feeding a booming population. Thanks to researchers and innovators, agriculture is more efficient than ever before. Read More
On the Ground
“I think sustainability to farmers just comes second nature. If you asked a farmer, ‘are you sustainable’ they’d probably look at you a little funny and say ‘I don’t think I’m doing anything that special.’ But it really is just what they do.”
— Tara Vander Dussen, New Mexico Farm Bureau
“We’ve had multiple decades of trying to do things that are good for the environment, good for the soil and good for water.”
— Doug Darling, Michigan Farm Bureau
“Sustainability to me, means longevity…That’s why the youth are so important because without them being involved and them learning and being exposed to these ideas now, we can’t ensure that farming is going to look the way we want it to look if we don’t incorporate the youth.”
— Kamal Bell, North Carolina Farm Bureau
Partners in Sustainability
To chart the course ahead with recommendations to achieve climate goals through voluntary, market-driven programs, AFBF co-founded the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance.
To showcase the tremendous progress farmers and ranchers have made in achieving sustainability goals, AFBF co-founded Farmers for a Sustainable Future.