Ag Day: Getting Smart about Climate and Agriculture

March 21, 2017

Nathan Magrath, Manager of Communications and Outreach, Alliance to End Hunger

National Ag Day presents us with an opportunity to recognize individuals who dedicate their lives to producing the food that nourishes our U.S. communities from coast to coast and beyond.  It also provides us with a time to explore the issues facing the agricultural community, and how universal many of these issues are.  The Alliance to End Hunger is dedicated to building the will to end hunger in the United States and around the world.  To do this, we must build the will to eliminate barriers faced by those who feed us—the world’s farmers.  Chief among these issues affecting farmers everywhere is climate change.

climate pic

Field outside of Choma, Zambia, 2015. (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger)

Climate change and agriculture go hand-in-hand, and each has a profound impact on the other.  The effect climate change has on agriculture is fairly evident. Changing weather patterns and increasing periods of drought and/or floods can fundamentally change farmers’ growing seasons, and even their decisions on what to grow in the first place.  But we also cannot ignore the fact that agriculture itself impacts the climate.  Both the US Department of Agriculture and the European Environment Agency estimate that 10 percent of greenhouse gasses released by the US and EU, respectively, can be attributed to agriculture.  This can include methane from livestock, but also byproducts from organic wastes and fertilizer.

This leads to a conversation very much at the forefront in the agricultural development community: adaptation and mitigation—adapting to climate change, and mitigating the effects of agriculture on the climate. Climate adaptation strategies for agriculture include crop choice and timing, as well as land management practices and others. Mitigation could include improved seed varieties and agricultural practices, optimizing soil management for carbon sequestration, and improving byproduct and processing management techniques to limit emissions.

In February, the Alliance interviewed the new Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations office in Washington DC, Vimlendra Sharan. In the interview, Sharan stated the need to harmonize adaptation and mitigation into a comprehensive approach to agriculture and climate change.

Climate-smart agricultural strategies are good for our farmers, good for our health, and are critical for the future of food production.

On April 20, leading up to Earth Day, the Alliance to End Hunger and the FAO will be teaming up to address the issue of climate-smart agriculture in a roundtable discussion.  The event will bring together experts from a variety of sectors to address what climate-smart ag is, why it is important, and how we can promote best practices. To learn more about the event, contact Nathan Magrath at nmagrath@alliancetoendhunger.org.