Agricultural Landscapes Face a Climate Crisis: Innovative Farmers and Land Stewards Have Solutions
Diversity strengthens systems. A diversity of species creates a more resilient ecosystem, a diversity of crops provides a farmer with better soil health, and a diversity of employee lived experiences creates a stronger organization. Without that diversity, systems become increasing vulnerable to disaster.
When it comes to federal agricultural policy, diverse and creative thinking rarely makes it into the decision-making process. A few program crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton dominate U.S. crop acreage, and federal policymakers are most likely to hear from the industries that rely on those crops. Policies that challenge the existing framework of agricultural support face a difficult process of getting through the gauntlet of interests that don’t want to rock the boat. U.S. agricultural policy has become far too slow and incremental.
Unfortunately, with a climate crisis, untenable racial disparities, and pandemic-exacerbated food insecurity, our food and agricultural system must confront several pressing issues. Tweaking these systems will not suffice. We need bold, transformational approaches that recognize and reward greater diversity in agricultural systems.
Policy development in Washington DC is truly an art form that requires a savvy understanding of negotiation and compromise. Policy tends to shift incrementally and slowly. Unfortunately, this business-as-usual approach doesn’t get us anywhere near the needed progress on creating a climate-mitigating and climate-resilient agricultural landscape. We are in a critical time that requires fresh ideas and bold policy development. We need to hear from more of the farmers and land stewards that operate outside of the dominant agricultural systems.
To address the lack of diverse voices and the need for innovation in agricultural policy, RAF collaborates with diverse, on-the-ground organizations around the country to infuse innovative policy ideas into federal decision-making processes. We believe that solutions to the climate crisis will emerge from creative farmers and land stewards that are experimenting with a diversity of crops and livestock to generate healthy soils, clean water, and climate-resilient, profitable food systems. RAF supports organizations that work with these farmers and land stewards to get these ideas to decision makers.
Most recently, President Biden issued the “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” that directed Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to collect input from stakeholders on how to promote climate-smart agricultural practices . To take advantage of this opportunity, RAF funded 12 organizations to submit comments by the April 29 deadline.
A Sampling of Comments to the USDA
RAF partner organizations spent an extraordinary amount of time developing thoughtful, innovative recommendations to USDA. Snippets of the ideas, as well as links to the entire documents, are provided below.
With huge policy vehicles moving forward, such as an infrastructure bill and farm bill, the next 18 months are a critical time for infusing innovation into the decisions made in Washington DC.
RAF is committed to supporting organizations that can provide tax exempt-allowable education and advocacy on key issues impacting regenerative agriculture such as climate change policy. RAF’s small grants make a difference in allowing these lean organizations to spend time writing comments.
To find out more about partnering with RAF on this effort, please reach out to Mark Muller at email@example.com.