Innovation for all sizes and types of farms – this is what is needed to help agriculture build resilience to climate change. The US government makes sure there are grants for buoy innovations, said US Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-8-Michigan, chair of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Stabenow recently participated in a “farm talk” at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference. The discussion was hosted by S2G Ventures, a venture capital firm specializing in food and agriculture.
US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also participated in the discussion. They both spoke about the role of innovation in climate smart agriculture.
“For those who innovate, go ahead – more – we need more innovation,” Stabenow said. “On our side, we’re working very hard with the USDA to make sure there are resources to partner up as well as innovation grants.
The Build Back Better budget is more meaningful and aggressive in terms of dollars available for conservation, shifting to greener technologies and innovations that affect farms large and small, she said. Due to the climate crisis, innovations will be needed to produce food with less water and less transport costs. Innovations will also be needed to keep carbon in the soil or to remove it from the air, she said.
“I think both agriculture and forestry can provide really significant elements to tackle the climate crisis,” she said.
USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grant will award $ 25 million to 18 projects, Vilsack said. One of the projects aims to reduce methane emissions from dairy farms.
“There are some in agriculture today who believe that you can either be sustainable or be productive,” he said. “I think we can do both – both in the traditional sense in fields around the world and in New Age agriculture as well.
“We need all shapes; we cannot choose. It is not the tyranny of war; it is really a question of need. These are indoor agriculture and small farms and agricultural and organic production. It’s a series of things we need to invest in and innovation is the key.
“We need to increase productivity. We know we will have less land and less water. The climate is going to make things more difficult, so it’s going to be important to create structures that allow farmers to take that leap.
“Here is the challenge. About 90 percent of American farmers do not generate the majority of the income for the farm families who operate them. It’s a challenge. When you ask, “How about adopting a digester or a conservation practice that respects the planet?” They say, “Well, there’s a cost associated with that. “
The USDA will determine ways to reduce financial risk so that farmers are free to take risks and in doing so learn much more about how to be climate smart, he said. Investing in innovation will contribute to the development of climate-smart commodities and the ability to define what is truly a sustainable product.
“I think the market will value products (which meet sustainability standards) and farmers will benefit,” he said.
Stabenow and Vilsack also discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected agriculture. The Senate Agriculture Committee and Congress have supported billions of dollars for the USDA which the department is now using to build resilience.
The pandemic has highlighted how badly the country needs more than four major meat processors, Stabenow said. More local and regional processors are needed to help strengthen the redundancy and resilience of the country’s food systems. This is where politics and finance can play an important role, she said.
Vilsack said, “I think the US bailout investment is transformational. It allows us to create the framework for a complementary system – productive agriculture and the local and regional food system. We have been incredibly productive and efficient in agriculture, but we have not been resilient. The pandemic has proven it. We have to sacrifice just a little efficiency for greater resilience.
This can be done by creating a dual system with local and regional food systems connected. Investing in the US bailout, he said, provides infrastructure and technical assistance capacity that can be used to help people build their local and regional food systems.
“This gives us the opportunity to encourage those who wish to move on to a higher value-added proposition – perhaps to move from a conventional system to an organic system, and the resources to do so without having to make a financial sacrifice.” , did he declare. “And that will create opportunities for greater processing capacity, which creates more competition, which should translate into better prices for farmers. All of this creates greater resilience.
Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s latest ideas, research and technology as a Wisconsin-based Agri-View staff reporter.