WASHINGTON (April 21, 2022) – Regenerative agriculture helps farmers and ranchers withstand the effects of climate change, according to a new report released today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Regenerative Agriculture: Farm Policy for the 21st Century, comes at the heels of a United Nations report that paints the grim effects of global warming, and highlights how regenerative agriculture provides multiple environmental co-benefits – including building soil health which helps sequester carbon – while making land more resilient to climate change. The report release comes as Congress reviews the nation’s farm policy and drafts the 2023 Farm Bill, which has the capacity to reshape the agricultural landscape.
“Regenerative agriculture helps farmers and ranchers as they increasingly face more extreme weather events, volatile supply chains, degraded natural resources, and a food system that is vulnerable to external factors,” said Arohi Sharma, Deputy Director of NRDC’s Regenerative Agriculture Program and lead author of the report. “It’s time for us to let go of today’s dominant industrial agricultural model and transition to one that is less extractive, more in sync with our ecosystems’ natural patterns, and more supportive of farmers and ranchers who are willing to embrace land management practices that help we fight climate change.”
The report details how regenerative agriculture, a philosophy of land management rooted in indigenous wisdom, focuses on growing in harmony with nature. It uses interviews from more than 100 farmers and ranchers to inform policy recommendations on how lawmakers can transition the nation’s agricultural system. Key findings reveal:
- Industrial Agriculture is Part of the Climate Problem: Agriculture accounts for 10 percent of the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The largest source of GHG emissions are industrial farming practices that degrade soil health, pollute waterways, and harm biodiversity, followed by industrial animal production at confined animal feeding operations.
- Regenerative Agriculture is Part of the Climate Solution: Indigenous communities have practiced regeneratively for centuries. By learning from the past, farmers and ranchers today can help mitigate climate change by using practices that build soil health, support biodiversity, and reduce fossil fuel-based chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers.
- Regenerative Agriculture Can Make Our Food System More Resilient: Climate change, inequitable access to farmland, consolidation, and an aging farmer and rancher workforce expose our food system to potential collapse. Regenerative agriculture provides lawmakers with a framework to strengthen and diversify our agricultural system.
- Regenerative Agriculture Helps Us Reimagine Farming for the 21st Century: Policies that created today’s dominant industrial agriculture model must be reformed and resources must meet the needs of regenerative farmers and ranchers.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Reform the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP): The FCIP is currently the largest farm subsidy program. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) must reform the FCIP to reward farmers who adopt regenerative practices that reduce on-farm risk.
- Build More Food and Agricultural Infrastructure: Congress must invest in building more agricultural infrastructure to help get regeneratively grown goods to markets.
- Support New, Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Congress must fund programs that help educate and train the next generation of farmers and ranchers to ensure a successful transition into regenerative agriculture.
- Fund More Regenerative Agriculture Research and Development: Increase funding for R&D to help inform science and decisions on more sustainable farming practices.
“We can revolutionize our food system by going back to agricultural principles and practices that are rooted in Indigenous wisdom,” said Sharma. “Regenerative agriculture helps farmers and ranchers build healthier soil, grow healthier food, and reduce water pollution while improving biodiversity, ultimately gaining a foothold in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises.”
More Information on Regenerative Agriculture
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter@NRDC