Editorial Roundup: Encouraged by sustainable farming, but more needed
Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021
The population is growing and the climate is changing, and both of those things will have a big impact on the future of agriculture and food production.
Farmers — some of them right here in Central Minnesota — are working on solutions to ensure the land they farm now will be healthy and productive for generations to come.
Those efforts could also help mitigate the effects of climate change, all while providing new agricultural revenue streams.
We focused on these practices in a series published last week on natural climate solutions supported by the MIT Environmental Solutions Journalism Fellowship. Journalism fellow and St. Cloud Times reporter Nora Hertel visited 10 farms this summer and interviewed dozens of experts on climate change, forestry, agriculture and more.
We’re encouraged by the practices she found in place on Central Minnesota farms. Cover crops, reduced plowing and carbon sequestration are all becoming more common in fields near where we live.
It’s early days in the quest to build functional markets that will make efforts like carbon offsets pay on a large scale for Midwestern producers. (Not sure what that is? Essentially, carbon offsets allow companies to pay someone else to clean up after their greenhouse gases.)
Until the monetization models fully evolve, however, help will be needed to get more farms, big and small, on board. Since government subsidies and supports already shape agricultural production in America, some changes could help drive sustainable practices that pay off for farmers and those who want to do the right thing for the planet.
And whether you believe in climate change or not (spoiler: it’s real), why wouldn’t we clean up after ourselves, simply as a basic investment in our collective home?
Employing agriculture to combat climate change is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Depending on what you farm and where you farm, different practices will come into play. And right now there isn’t an exact answer for every scenario.
That’s why we all have a stake in protecting producers while they experiment to the answer.
The thing that encourages us is that there are people who are giving it a shot, trying to find solutions and exploring options. The solutions are not all viable right now, but unless tried and tested, there’s no way to tell which could become viable in the future. We all will benefit from those successes. We must not put the financial risk on farmers without a safety net.
Vegan or omnivore, blue or red, we all need to eat and we all need a planet with functioning ecosystems. We as consumers can support more sustainable farming practices, and farmers can work to implement them, but policy and regulation regarding carbon markets and assistance for farmers looking to implement sustainable agriculture practices are needed to ensure a healthy future.
Tell your elected leaders.
— St. Cloud Times, Nov. 5