America’s farmers, through tremendous gains in productivity and rapid adoption of technology, are leading the way in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and sequestering carbon. That was the word from Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, in remarks last week to a House Committee exploring climate change solutions.

Duvall, a Georgia farmer, urged the legislators to work with farmers to develop voluntary, market-based systems to reduce GHG emissions  and sequester carbon.
At the forefront

“U.S. farmers and ranchers have long been at the forefront of climate-smart farming, utilizing scientific solutions, technology and innovations to raise crops and care for livestock,” Duvall told the House Agriculture Committee. “These efforts are designed to protect soil and water, efficiently manage manure, produce clean and renewable energy, capture carbon and improve sustainability.”

All told, agriculture accounts for approximately 10% of total U.S. GHG emissions, far less than the transportation, electricity generation and industrial sectors.

And that number is declining because of agriculture’s incredible productivity gains, Duvall said.

A 287% productivity gain

“Over two generations, we’ve been able to increase productivity by 287%, while using the same resources. To say we’re doing more with less is an understatement,” he said.

Those gains in productivity have allowed farmers to set aside lands for forests, wetlands, grassland and other practices that help to remove carbon from the atmosphere, Duvall noted. 

Carbon sequestration, achiev­ed through those conservation practices, contributed to GHG re­­movals equivalent to 12% of total U.S. emissions. And farmers can do more, Duvall said.

“With increased investment in agricultural research, we can develop the new frontier technologies to capture even more carbon in our croplands, our forests and our grasslands,” he told the lawmakers. “We can de­­finitely reduce our carbon footprint. With cutting-edge science, we may be able to achieve net zero emissions in some sectors of agriculture.”

Welcome the opportunity

Farm Bureau members, Duvall said, recognize the value of a voluntary, market-based system of incentives for planting crops or adopting farming practices that keep carbon in the soil. That is why they welcome opportunities participate in emerging carbon markets, he said.

Farm Bureau, Duvall said, has been a leader in forming the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. 

The newly-formed group consists of a wide range of organizations representing farmers, the food sector, state governments and environ­mental advocates that are working together to develop and promote shared climate policy priorities. 

The coalition has three primary principles: supporting vol­­untary, market- and incentive-based policies; advancing science-based outcomes; and promoting resilience and helping rural economies better adapt to changes in the climate.

“Advocating for the right policies — voluntary, market- and incentive-based solutions — will allow us to build on our sustainability advances and recognize farmers as partners in this effort, while helping to prevent a move toward the punitive policies discussed a decade ago,” Duvall said.