Today – its all about natural climate solutions and how they pay off. And to introduce you to a new entity that launched earlier this year that is leading the charge.
U.S. Nature4Climate is a coalition of 10 conservation, sustainability, and business organizations, including US Farmers and Ranchers in Action that are dedicated to ensuring our forests, farms, ranches, grasslands and wetlands are an important part of the overall strategy to combat climate change.
Their goal is to create a collaborative platform where conservation organizations, the farm and forestry sectors, and corporations can work together to help ensure that Natural Climate Solutions are fully integrated into broader climate action strategies.
As the U.S. works to address climate change, U.S. Nature4Climate will elevate these nature-based solutions as an integral part of any comprehensive climate action plan.
Natural Climate Solutions improve the health of our natural and working lands, strengthen connections between people and nature, and enhance the well-being of the plants, animals and people they support.
We have a full house today and you won’t want to miss this episode. Our guides will explain just how important and impactful this effort is, with us are:
Nathan Henry, Project Manager, USN4C
Cathy Macdonald, Steering Committee Chair, USN4C
Kris Johnson, Deputy Director, The Nature Conservancy
Rebecca Tuuk, Forest landowner
Chip Bowling, USFRA Chairman
US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 Honor the Harvest Forum. Welcome to the U S Farmers and Ranchers in action weekly video podcast for November 18th, 2020. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Today, it's all about natural climate solutions and how they pay off. And to introduce you to a new entity that launched earlier this year, that is leading the charge. US nature4climate is a coalition of 10 conservation sustainability and business organizations, including us farmers and ranchers and action that are all dedicated to ensuring that our forests o r farms or ranches o ur grasslands and our wetlands are an important part of the overall strategy to combat climate change. Their goal is simply to create a collaborative platform where conservation organizations, the farm and forestry sectors and corporations can work together closely to help ensure that natural climate solutions are fully integrated into the broader climate action strategies as the u s works to address climate change. It's important that the U S nature for climate will elevate these nature based solutions as an integral part of every comprehensive climate action plan, natural climate solutions improve the health of our natural and our working lands. They strengthen the connection between people and nature and enhance the well being of the plants, the animals, and the people that they all support. We have a full house today, and you won't want to miss this episode. Our guides will explain just how important and just how impactful this effort is with us today are Nathan Henry, the project manager of USN4C. Cathy MacDonald , the steering committee chair of USN4C. Kris Johnson, the Deputy Director of the Nature Conservancy. Rebecca Tuuk forest landowner. And of course our very own Chip Bowling. Welcome all to Farm Food Facts.Cathy:
So I guess where I want to get started , um, and , and this Cathy is, is for you give us a high level overview of the mission and the vision of us and foreseeCathy:
Absolutely well, you did a very nice job of giving that, that , uh, overview , uh, just now , uh , we, the nature Conservancy created the us nature for climate coalition , uh, really to help elevate the importance of the land sector, natural and working lands as a critical part of how we address climate change. And we , um, globally, we know that , uh, natural working lands can contribute about 30% of the mitigation that we need by 2030 and here in the us , uh , natural and working lands are already reducing our overall , uh, emissions , uh, by about 12%. And if we can increase investments , uh, and , uh, at adoption of natural climate solutions practices, land management and land use practices, then we can nearly triple this amount. So it's really got an important role to play. And we reached out to other like-minded organizations who , uh , work , uh, in , uh, on natural and working lands , uh, to create this , uh , coalition, as you said, to help us elevate the important role of the land sector as a critical part of the climate mitigation. Um , unfortunately the natural and working lands are not often thought about by the people that are focused on advancing climate mitigation. And so investments in natural climate solutions have been much lower than investments and other important climate mitigation strategies. So by being able to pull together a diverse set of organizations , um, and the great networks so that they have like the U S farmers and ranchers and action , uh, we're hoping we can do more to kind of elevate the importance of natural and working lands and make sure that , uh, the programs and practices that are being developed , um, that, that ledge law , that decision makers support those ideas, that they are shaped by the people who manage the land that , uh, produces our food and fiber and that they , uh , can help shape and engage in those practices.Phil:
So, Kathy , I'm a bit surprised to hear , um, that the funding for these kinds of programs are far less than they should be. Um, why, why is that? Is it just a lack of awareness and understandingCathy:
It is really, that's what we've found that , um, the decision-makers don't think about the land sector when they're thinking about climate mitigation, but there are other great programs like the farm bill that , uh , do fund a number of these practices, but the , uh, investments in , uh , climate mitigation are increasing and we want to make sure that those investments don't leave the land sector out.Phil:
Sure. Um , makes sense. Um, so chip, why, why was it important , uh , for you and , uh , and the board of USF RA to get involved in this?Chip:
So we knew as an organization and as a board that, you know, someone had to take the lead on actually talking about climate change and how we're going to change it as agriculture. You know, I've been dealing since 1998 as a farmer with the Chesapeake Bay. So I understand exactly what Katherine was saying about working together with others to achieve the same goal. We might not think alike. We might not think that we're going to get there at the same time, but I can tell you as a farmer living in the Chesapeake Bay area, that we have worked together with the Chesapeake Bay , uh waterkeepers uh, we can , we've worked with different organizations that we thought we'd never worked with as a Maryland farmer, and we're working quite well together. So we understand as a board and as a , as a group of different individual organizations that make up us farmers and ranchers , uh, we , we understand how important it is to get to that next level, working together with other organizations like-minded like ourselvesPhil:
And , and certainly Chip , uh, you and Erin have , uh, exemplified that with the honor of the harvest forum , uh, bringing all these people together and , and just having these committees working 365 days a year, not just getting together, you know, over a one or two day period of time, but continuing that discussion. And, you know, every time that I talked to farmers and ranchers , um, you, one thing comes out loud and clear that , uh , we are doing a better job than the average. Um , American knows that we've got to get these messages out there , uh , to talk about the progress, whether it's on a dairy farm or with a row crops or, or whatever. Um, the, the average American citizen just doesn't really understand and aware of all these. So, you know , uh, Kris, maybe, can you talk a little bit about the tactical and operational approach , um , with Nathan on how we're going to get these messages out there?Kris:
Well, sure. Yeah. And thanks for the discussion. Um, and I think you're right. I think there is a whole lot of great stuff that's happening in the agricultural space, particularly in the last few years, half, dozen years. Um , we've seen just , uh , explosion of interest on the part of, of companies, of commodity groups, of farmers and ranchers themselves all up and down the supply chain and explosion of interest in , um, adopting practices that can provide some of those climate mitigation benefits, but also actually provide benefits for the farmer and the rancher, you know, themselves , um, building up the soil health, you know, enhancing that kind of water holding capacity of the soil that actually more often than not turns out to provide on-farm benefits for that producer in terms of less inputs, you know, better yields in times of drought, stress, that sort of thing. And lo and behold, it's pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the soil as well. So I think , um, there really is an awareness growing on the part of a lot of us that are kind of in agriculture day-to-day and thinking about this, but I think you're right, some of these stories do need to be told, and we need to kind of use that storytelling as a little bit of a positive feedback to build even more momentum and even more interest and more commitment to keeping this good work going.Nathan:
well, and I think that's one of the things that nature us needs for climate can really play a role in helping to do , uh, if you go to our website, which is U S uh, www. usnature4climate .org . Uh, one of the things our website does is it really tells the stories of farmers and forest owners. Who've had success implementing these, these climate friendly , uh, land practices , uh , like Rebecca Tuuk who's here today. Um, whose story is featured on our website. We're also really interested in highlighting the efforts of organizations working to make these solutions practical and beneficial for landowners , uh , through kind of innovation and collaboration as well. So there's a , there's another whole section of our website called , uh , solutions and action, which really profiles sort of case studies of , of organizations that are really taking action to make these solutions practical in the real world. I think the final thing I'd want to mention is that , um, all of these natural climate solutions are strongly backed by science and our, and our website's really dedicated to shining a light on the vigorous science, supporting these strategies and their , uh , potential to have a real impact on , uh , global temperatures. We want to , we want to make sure this information is information is accessible and available to all those who are really interested in pursuing kind of a nature based climate solutions.Phil:
So Nathan, you know, you , um, you mentioned Rebecca's being featured. What are you featuring about what Rebecca is doing?Nathan:
Yes, well, we're featuring , uh , Rebecca, I think you actually , uh , hit the nail on the head we're featuring Rebecca's , uh, participation in the working Woodlands program. And I think it would be really interesting if you could talk a little bit about the collaborative relationships that you've developed , uh, through that program and then some of the, you know , ways that it's helped make implementation of these strategies more practical , uh, for you and some of the benefits that you've derived from participating in this program.Rebecca:
Okay. Yes. We started talking to nature Conservancy about the working Woodlands program a few years back, and it sounded like something that we wanted to get involved in. It was definitely helping with environmental issues with, with helping the environment. And we were interested in that. So we've, we've proceeded to sign up for it. Um, we had the chance to have a custom plan to set up for our, our land so that we could sustain a farm. It sustainably. We have an SSC certification as a result, and they had, they made an assessment of the wildlife and the plants and the carbon that was, that was being saved in our land. The pro program is now in its second year of being run. And we have received money as a result of the program for the carbon credits that our trees are protecting. Um , the money is paid for by companies who are producing carbon and want to be able to offset their carbon. And so they pay for the different people who own Timberland to offset their carbon.Phil:
So Chip, you know, I've been on your farm. Uh, you're very beautiful, very big farm , um, lot of trees , a lot of agriculture there. So talk to us a little bit about, you know, how those forests and how agriculture actually do overlap, especially when , when we talk about climate mitigation , um, how are farmers and forest owners , uh , who are facing the same challenges dealing with it?Chip:
So that's a great question. I was listening to Rebecca talk and, you know, like Phil said, our farm is a fairly large farm we're on the banks of the Waccamaw river, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, but not only am I a farmer who farms the fields, I also own Woodland and we manage our woods too. We timber our woods. Uh, we manage our woods through timbering. Um, we just got done. Timbering attractive about a year and a half ago that literally in buttered up to the river , uh, not only does manage timbering help our productivity on the fields, but it also helps the woods stay healthy quite frankly. So we know that it has to be managed in a way that is sustainable. Um, timbering is not the main thing that we do, but we just have the fortunate of owning large tracks of land that have timber on them. Don't get me wrong. I am a farmer by trade. Um, so we understand also through managed timbering we have to manage how we farm and most farmers as Nathan and Chris were eluding to , uh , we're actually doing things on our farms through precision agriculture, that we didn't really know how good we were doing them. Um, and that's the advantage of being in the Chesapeake Bay area, where we have a mandate to go by and every field and every farm has a prescribed prescription on how to farm it and how to fertilize it, how to spray it. And we, now we collect that data here in the Mid-Atlantic and we know exactly what we're doing to improve water quality, what we're doing to improve. So we'll , and that is spreading across the country. You know, national corn growers has a soil health partnership and , and farmers that don't have to do this by a mandate or doing it on their own because they see the benefits of how they handle their soil and how they handle their farming practices like no-till and precision farming and putting fertilizer down when it's needed, not just because you want to. So that enhances what we're doing in general , uh , as a whole and promoting soil health, seed health, and actually helping with climate change and capturing carbon when we need to. So, Kathy , what does collaboration and partnerships look like between forestry and agriculture? Both on the ground and on paper.Cathy:
I think there's a lot of opportunity , um, for forest and farmers to work together just as you just heard chip say , um, he does it on his own land, and I think a lot of , uh, uh, farms do have a mix of both , uh, types of , um, uh, uh, habitat. And so , uh, having, being able to , uh , kind of learn lessons from each other on best practices. So if you're a person like Jeff, who's primarily a farmer , uh, maybe you can learn from your neighbor that is more of a Forester and work together and collaborate like that. I think some of the other things we can do together is elevate some of the issues that , uh, need to be addressed and would benefit both farmers and foresters , uh, in thinking about how to improve practices from a carbon management perspective. There are some basic , um, monitoring , uh , verification and reporting , uh, in information that , uh , could benefit , uh, both advancing practices on the farm and the forest side , uh, that , uh, we can, we can kind of collectively advocate for and think about , uh, how to design programs and learn from one , one another about how, how programs can best be designed to , uh, to help farmers and foresters engage in this work. So a lot of opportunity, both on the ground and , um, in thinking about , uh, policy and, and corporate practices and , and things like that.Phil:
And where would you like to see a US nature 4 climate be in two years from now three years from now?Cathy:
Well, I'm really hopeful that we will just continue to strengthen our partnership , uh, to extend our reach so that we're our 10 person steering committee is , uh , got, a number of affiliate members and organizations that are able to use the materials that we put together , uh, to help us spread the word. So , uh, I'm hoping we'll gather a lot of momentum and , uh, and some other partners to really help create that kind of , um , network of information to influence decision-makers and to engage landowners in helping us design the right programs , uh , and, and engage in the right programs.Phil:
And I know , uh , one of your steering committee members very well, our own CEO, Erin Fitzgerald , and I know that , um, you know, everything that she's told us about what you're doing and how she's going to help , uh, communicate and raise the awareness of this program is going to be very, very important. Um, chip last question. And I , and I'm going to give you the tough question as , as we always do , um, look, look into your crystal ball and you know, where are we on climate because of us nature for climate because of Honor the Harvest, because of all these other programs, all the initiatives, the farmers and ranchers are taking across the country, where are we in five years?Chip:
Oh my goodness. That's a tough question. Um, so I represent a lot of commodity groups , uh, in agriculture being the chairman of the us farmers and ranchers Alliance. Um, most of the groups are , are on board when it comes to talking about climate change. We're just very careful how, you know, are we in a crisis or in a climate change, which luckily climate is always changing. That's why we're still here. Um, our, where are we in five years to fill that, that question? Uh, I think we're in a better place than where we are now because we're doing practices that are making a difference. Uh , we understand now that what we're doing , um, we had the data and science tells the truth that how we're farming and where we're farming does make a difference. And, you know, as Catherine says, we have to collaborate, not just as farmers, but the forest and quite frankly, the water also , uh, which I'm very familiar with on water quality. So I think that we are working together more so than we ever have. We're agreeing that we both have the same end goal in mind, where we all want to be better at what we're doing it and how we're doing it. So in five years, which is a short period of time when it comes to climate, I think we're going to be leaps and bounds above where we are now in five years, because I, I know where we've come as farmers since 1998 , uh, with the just big Bay mandate, our water is cleaner, our lands are more productive and we're doing a better job at how we're doing it. So I know that as a farmer, that we're making a difference. So I have all the faith in the world that , uh, working with, you know , nature for climate, along with us farmers and ranchers and all other groups, whether it's, you know , a business, not in the industry of farming, but we're , I know that we're doing a better job and I know that we can do a better,Phil:
That's a good crystal ball. I liked that. Um, Nathan , uh , just give us the website one more time, so people can get familiar with all your work soar .Nathan:
Uh , our website is www.usnature4climate.org. And that's a four , like the number four. And Then you can also check us out on , on Twitter and LinkedIn as well, where we also maintain a sort of a social media presence as well. And we're always posting a lot of really topical and interesting information on our, on our social media accounts as well.Phil:
And I want to thank all of you for joining us today on farm food facts and keep up the great work.Group:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks.Phil:
US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 honor the harvest forum. Our movement sponsors, United soybean board and national pork board. Our presenting sponsors, Wells Fargo, Cargil and DMI. Our Platinum Sponsor the Native American Agriculture Fund. Our Gold sponsors, Bader-Rutter, Bayer, Corteva, Dairy West, Edelman, Ernst & Young, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, frog, McDonald's, Nebraska Soybean Board, and Nutrien. Our Silver Sponsors Cobank and OCP North America. Our bronze sponsor, Nestle Purina. Our Copper Sponsor, Ruan. And our donor sponsor, Tyson. For more on all things, food and agriculture. Please visit @usfarmersandranchers.org. Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USFRA until next time.