Much of the news lately regarding climate change and agriculture has focused on the way agriculture is accelerating climate change – belching cows, burning fossil fuels for a wide variety of ag operations ranging from fieldwork to drying crops, and nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers, just to name just a few.

So it was definitely refreshing to hear someone claim that agriculture, if conducted right, can actually slow climate change.

Recently, American Farmland Trust (AFT) president and CEO John Piotti, explained why farming represents one of the best opportunities to slow climate change during a speech he gave at the Sun Valley Institute Forum. His ideas aren’t recently contrived, but rather the result of 40 years of working on critical issues that will determine our future as a society and a planet.

The main concerns of the AFT is the alarming loss of farmland, the need to scale up regenerative practices and the approaching wave of farmer retirements. Counteracting this can be carried out by protecting farmland from development, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.

The AFT has set in motion a Farmers Combat Climate Change initiative that is helping farmers, ranchers and landowners play a unique role in reducing the growing threat of climate change while increasing food production, improving soil health and protecting farmland for future generations.

Piotti says now is the time to take such action, stressing that we may be at a tipping point, a point at which we do not have enough farmland to both grow our food and provide the much-needed environmental benefits brought about by regenerative agriculture practices to restore the planet.

Piotti’s words bring a refreshing new way to look at slowing climate change. It is not words about taking away from what we already have – removing livestock from the picture, eliminating fossil fuels and curbing nitrogen fertilizer use, but rather enhancing what we are already doing and use that as the way to increase food and fiber production, while at the same time slowing the rate of climate change.

AFT takes on a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land and the farmers and ranchers who do the work.

Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural land and advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres.

The key to this is understanding the difference between not just maximizing what happens on a parcel of land, but optimizing what we are doing.  To maximize means to make as large or great as possible and not consider the end result on a parcel of land, while optimize means to make the best or most effective use of a resource while still focusing on preservation.

He leaves us with this sobering statement: “Losing even one acre of farmland jeopardizes out future. No farms, no food, no future.”

We salute this positive approach to slowing the rate of climate change and at the same time finding ways to increase agriculture production for the world.

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