USDA’s announcement this week of new and expanded climate-smart agriculture opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers sets the tone for what is bound to be a year of robust activity in regenerative agriculture.
“Climate change is happening, and America’s agricultural communities are on the frontlines,” stated NRCS Chief Terry Cosby in a Jan. 10 news release from USDA. “We have to continue to support and expand the adoption of conservation approaches to support producers in their work to address the climate crisis and build more resilient operations. We are continuously working to improve our programs to ensure we’re giving farmers and ranchers the best tools to conserve natural resources.”
(Full disclosure: Our team at Trust In Food supports a two-year climate-smart Contribution Agreement between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the nonprofit Farm Journal Foundation as part of America’s Conservation Ag Movement.)
In no particular order, here are three key trends I’m watching in regenerative agriculture as 2022 begins:
Trend #1: “Climate-smart agriculture” is the phrase of the moment. Given my setup at the top of this post, this one is no surprise, particularly in food and agriculture circles. And regrettably, outside of our industry, many aren’t paying as much attention to the potential of farmers and ranchers as climate solutions providers as we’d like. For example, this sweeping (and sometimes dystopian) feature in Vox calling for a new wave of climate activism didn’t mention the role of agriculture even once. Never fear, though: Emerging leaders such as researcher Daniela Jones of NC State University are paving the way for ag talent to address climate change in a big way.
Trend #2: Climate and carbon policy debate will continue in earnest. Although the future of President Biden’s Build Back Better is uncertain, at least some leaders in the business community are very confident we’ll see some type of fully approved legislation. (This, of course, before Senator Joe Manchin signaled he opposes the bill in its current form.) What it says, how it operates, who ultimately votes in favor of it, and on what timeframe? That remains an open question. News outlets from CNN to The New York Times have had plenty to speculate about as we await updates, though the wires have been largely quiet for the past three weeks.
Trend #3: New innovation in regenerative will continue apace. As our elected leaders work on climate issues in Washington, leaders across the private sector are continuing to pursue innovation that can advance regenerative. I noted with interest a recent story out of Brazil illustrating how nanotechnology could precisely target fertilizer to crop roots, limiting environmental impact.
Needless to say, there are many regenerative ag issues worth monitoring as the New Year gets underway.
What are you following? I hope you’ll drop me a line and let me know what I missed at firstname.lastname@example.org.