The leaders of a "smart agriculture" advocacy group announced a new, three-year North American initiative that will give farmers, ranchers and foresters the opportunity to collaborate with industry, academia, government and NGO partners in developing ways to improve production resiliency and mitigate current and future risks of changing climatic conditions.

A.G. Kawamura, a former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and a co-chairman of Solutions from the Land, announced the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative here during the UN Climate Summit. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the meeting of leaders from world governments, finance, business and civil society to galvanize and catalyze climate action.

Kawamura said the North American initiative will offer a platform to:

  • facilitate discussion among stakeholders about new adaptation practices, tools and production systems; and
  • review the latest information on what science is saying about changing climatic conditions and their impact on U.S. agriculture and forestry.

"We expect this initiative– which will include the creation of a North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance– will produce recommendations for steps that must be taken to reduce risk and enhance the resilience of ag and forestry operations," Kawamura said. "This is a resource that will offer support to states and regions, and establish crop-specific agricultural and forestry leadership teams that will develop adaptation strategies."

Kawamura cited the findings earlier this year of the National Climate Assessment, a report from more than 300 experts from multiple federal agencies that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States now and in the future, that shows climate disruptions to U.S. agricultural production have increased in the past 40 years and are projected to increase over the next 25 years. Starting at mid-century, the impacts will become increasingly negative on most crops and livestock, according to the assessment.

"The assessment also includes many strategies agriculture and forestry can use to adapt to the average temperature and precipitation changes that are projected for the next 25 years," Kawamura said. "The North American Smart Agriculture Initiative can help promote these strategies, including technological advancements, expansion of irrigated acreage, regional shifts in crop acreage and crop species, adjustments in inputs and outputs, and changes in livestock management practices."

Fred Yoder, an Ohio farmer who serves on the Solutions from the Land board of directors and is a former president of the National Corn Growers Association, will chair the initiative. Yoder has worked extensively on the group's adaptation project, which has drawn together a wide range of agricultural leaders and recommended ways for producers, policymakers and other stakeholders to adapt to a changing climate.

Kawamura says a number of key farm, commodity and conservation groups have signed on to play a leadership role in the initiative, including the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), American Soybean Association (ASA), National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Western Growers Association, National FFA Foundation, American Farmland Trust, United Soybean Board, Ontario Farmers Federation and Soil and Water Conservation Society.

"Whether it is excessive flooding or withering drought, farmers and ranchers rise each day to meet the challenges of the weather; we have no doubt that we will continue to adapt to a changing climate," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "Farm Bureau believes that there are tools and solutions that will make combating inclement weather less challenging without hindering our productivity or harming the U.S. economy. This collaborative effort will insure that farmers and livestock producers will do what needs to be done to readily meet the food demands of a global population expected to exceed 9 billion people in 2050."

"The American Soybean Association is proud to be part of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative, which will serve as a platform for great minds to come together and discuss solutions as we adapt to a changing climate, while keeping good stewardship of the land at the forefront," said ASA President Ray Gaesser. "It's important that those of us in the agriculture industry come together to lead discussion and work toward ensuring our resources are used effectively, efficiently and sustainably."

Solutions from the Land, said Kawamura, will support forums, roundtables and summits where agricultural, forestry and conservation leaders and value chain partners can collaborate and engage in joint problem solving and build a broader coalition in addressing adaptation challenges. The group will also collaborate closely with government-sponsored initiatives, such as the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agriculture Project (CSCAP), a USDA-funded effort to investigate the complex carbon, nitrogen and water cycles in managing corn-based cropping systems to increase efficiency and productivity while decreasing agriculture's environmental footprint under extreme and variable long-term weather conditions.

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