News4Climate: May 2024 Edition

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Welcome to our latest newsletter, where we delve into the transformative potential of Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) in the United States.

In this edition, we spotlight how a climate-smart Farm Bill provides a bipartisan opportunity to place our farmers, ranchers, and foresters at the heart of climate solutions. You will find inspiring stories of programs successfully implementing NCS with federal funding. From the journey of tribal producers advocating for equitable access to Farm Bill Programs, to the success stories of farmers embracing soil health practices to protect the environment and their bottom lines, these narratives underscore the important strides we are making in our fight against climate change.

We also highlight the latest updates in forest management, agriculture, and coastal wetlands conservation. These sections provide insights into the latest scientific research, policy developments, and innovative initiatives in these fields. Lastly, don’t miss our Corporate Sector Highlight, which focuses on the critical role of corporate climate disclosures in enhancing sustainability performance.

We invite you to explore these stories and join us in forging a sustainable and productive future for our nation. Let’s work together to meet our climate goals and create a healthier, more resilient world for generations to come. As we navigate these challenges, we believe that broad collaboration is key to achieving our shared objectives. We hope that the information and insights provided in this newsletter will serve as a valuable resource in your decision-making process.

A Climate-Smart Farm Bill Provides a Bipartisan Path Forward to Ensuring We Meet Our Climate Goals

In recent years, the United States government has significantly increased its support for the implementation of Natural Climate Solutions on American natural and working lands. This surge in funding has paved the way for a diverse array of programs aimed at expanding the adoption of these innovative strategies across the nation. Natural Climate Solutions encompass land management approaches designed to harness the power of forests, farms, grasslands, coastal ecosystems, and urban environments to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These solutions not only address climate change, but they also help restore wildlife habitat, improve water quality, increase the productivity of our farms, create jobs, and protect our communities from storms and floods. 

The Farm Bill in particular is a vital opportunity to put out our farmers, ranchers, and foresters at the center of the solution and forge a sustainable and productive future by: 
 

  • Providing financial and technical assistance for farmers to adopt climate smart practices that also improve soil health and water quality.
  • Helping communities plant and maintain urban trees.
  • Preserving America’s forests and grasslands for future generations.
  • Preventing catastrophic wildfires and restoring forests impacted by fire.


Additionally, a climate-smart Farm Bill provides a bipartisan path forward to ensuring we meet our climate goals. 

Below is a selection of programs successfully implementing Natural Climate Solutions with the assistance of federal support:

Making USDA Programs Work For Tribal Producers by Native American Agriculture Fund

Explore the inspiring journey of third-generation rancher Leon LaSalle and the Chippewa Cree Tribe as they advocate for equitable access to Farm Bill Programs. From confronting the challenges of drought to negotiating groundbreaking agreements with USDA, learn how their project enhances conservation practices, addresses policy changes, and catalyzes innovation for a sustainable agricultural future. Discover the impact on tribal producers, the significance of tribal sovereignty, and the opportunities presented by the upcoming Farm Bill.
Read full article.


Soil Health Success: Mulligan Farm shows that soil health practices can help improve economic performance by American Farmland Trust

Farmers across the U.S. are embracing soil health practices for increased resilience, efficiency, and environmental benefits while improving their bottom line. At Mulligan Farm, Forrest Watson’s success with cover cropping and reduced tillage highlights the potential of regenerative agriculture, made possible in part due to financial support from federal funding from programs like USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
Read full article.


Advancing Agroforestry in the Midwest: Hudson Demonstration Farm by Savanna Institute

Explore the importance of agroforestry, its resilience in the face of climate change, and the barriers to adoption in the Midwest. This article highlights the need for continued USDA support and a transformative 2023 Farm Bill to promote agroforestry as a natural climate solution and economic opportunity, fostering hope and revitalizing communities.
Read full article and watch the video.


Soil Health Success: Herriman Farms Soil Health Benefits Case Study by American Farmland Trust

Soil health management practices like no-till farming, cover crops, and nutrient management, can provide a wide range of environmental and climate benefits, while also improving farmers’ bottom line. American Farmland Trust’s Soil Health Economic Case Studies profile the real-world experience of farmers who have adopted soil health management practices with an in-depth partial budget analysis of their experienced costs, benefits, and return-on-investment of implementing these practices.
Read full article.


Treesilience: Urban Forestry for Communities and Climate by The Nature Conservancy

Urban trees are more than aesthetics; they’re vital for cleaner air, climate action, and equitable communities. Treesilience, a dynamic initiative led by a coalition of organizations, is redefining urban landscapes in Chicago and St. Louis. They’re planting and protecting trees while empowering communities for a greener, healthier, and more equitable future. Discover how federal funding is pivotal in making these programs a reality.
Read full article.

Don’t miss the Environmental and Energy Study Institute‘s Farm Bill Tracker page, for a round-up of briefings, policy resources, articles, and podcasts on sustainable agriculture and climate, environmental, and energy opportunities in the upcoming Farm Bill.

1. FORESTS ARE ONE OF OUR STRONGEST ALLIES AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE: American Forests Annual Report 2023

In 2023, American Forests made significant strides in urban forestry, climate-resilient reforestation, and equitable forest management, driven by billions in new federal fundingand diverse partnerships.As written in their 2023 Annual Report, American Forests experienced an incredible “Forest Forward” leap in 2023: 

  • “Forward to an urban forestry movement that is laser-focused on saving lives and protecting our climate by delivering Tree Equity to communities in America and around the world.
  • Forward to rapid climate-resilient reforestation of public and tribal lands that can withstand the climate-fueled threats consuming our forests.
  • Forward to a more equitable and inclusive way of growing and caring for our forests that increases resources for everyone, while offering diverse opportunities from volunteerism to new green careers.
  • Forward to freely available data and science-driven tools that help everyone prioritize where and how to reforest, and how to quantify our impacts.”

“All of this momentum was powered by billions of dollars in new federal funding, matched by increased state and local agency support, and through the generosity of corporate and foundation partners and individual philanthropic contributions.” See the full impact here.


2. VOLUNTARY CARBON MARKETS: White House Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Principles for High-Integrity Voluntary Carbon Markets

3. SCIENCE DEEP DIVE: IMPACTS OF THINNING & PRESCRIBED FIRE: Forest & Ecology Management Study (The Nature Conservancy is a co-author): Tamm Review: A Meta-Analysis of Thinning, Prescribed Fire, and Wildfire Effects on Subsequent Wildfire Severity in Conifer Dominated Forests of the Western US

4. WILDFIRE MANAGEMENT: Hispanic Access Foundation Press Release: Hispanic Access Community Navigator Cohort Participants Awarded Community Wildfire Defense Grants

Photo from American Farmland Trust article

1. CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE: American Farmland Trust Article: There Is No More Normal: New England’s Farmers Respond to a Changing Climate

In the article There Is No More Normal: New England’s Farmers Respond to a Changing Climate,American Farmland Trust highlights the challenges New England farmers face due to climate change, emphasizing the unpredictability and extremes in weather patterns. The historic drought of 2022 led to significant agricultural losses, prompting discussions on the absence of a “normal” growing season. These discussions evolved into the “No More Normal Farmer Roundtable” events, where farmers share knowledge and discuss climate change impacts and solutions. The roundtables revealed common issues like changing spring temperatures, unreliable weather forecasts, and the effects of distant climate events, such as Canadian wildfires, on local farming.

Farmers expressed concerns over increasingly unpredictable weather affecting crop yields and livestock, and the difficulty of communicating with non-farming landowners who may not understand the intricacies of farming. They discussed various adaptations, including state-funded relief, shifting to baleage, and no-till farming, which improves field accessibility and efficiency despite its learning curve.

2. SCIENCE DEEP DIVE: SOIL CARBON & GHG EMISSIONS MODELING: Environmental Defense Fund Blog Article: How to Improve Soil Modeling to Maximize Climate and Farm Benefits

3. AGRICULTURAL METHANE: Environmental Defense Fund Growing Returns Article: Closing the Enteric Methane Emissions Innovation Gap: A Call for Funding High-Quality Research

4. MANURE MANAGEMENT: Environmental Defense Fund Growing Returns Article: Good Manure Management Must Involve Ammonia Emissions, Too

5. SCOPE 3 EMISSIONS: U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action Newsletter: May 2024 Newsletter – USFRA Monitoring, Providing Farmer Insights to Leading Scope 3 Emissions Consortium

1. CALIFORNIA NWL TARGETS & EELGRASS/WETLAND CONSERVATION FUNDING: The Pew Charitable Trusts Article: California Adopts Targets to Preserve, Restore Coastal Habitats for Climate Benefits

While reducing fossil fuel emissions is the most effective way to limit carbon pollution, managing natural and working lands (NWL) can also play a crucial role. Healthy lands can sequester carbon and limit future greenhouse gas emissions. Coastal wetlands, in particular, capture and store carbon at rates exceeding those of forests. However, California has lost an estimated 90% of its wetlands over the past two centuries due to development and other uses, leading to the release of stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

In response, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) has adopted new carbon pollution reduction targets for the state’s natural and working lands. These targets aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the adaptability of nature and people to climate change. They are among the first in the nation to account for the carbon sequestration powers of coastal habitats, known as “blue carbon.” This move marks a significant step in implementing a 2022 state law that mandates the CNRA to collaborate with other state agencies on greenhouse gas reduction targets for natural and working lands. 

Additionally, a 2023 law commits the state to conserving at least 30% of its lands and coastal waters by 2030, which could help advance these targets. A climate and equity bond proposal, backed by The Pew Charitable Trusts and over 150 other organizations, is being considered to marshal the resources needed to implement this work.

2. DEIJ & COASTAL CONSERVATION: Restore America’s Estuaries Blog Article: How NSF Funding Supported RAE’s Commitment to Advancing Inclusive Coasts

3. SEAWEED POTENTIAL: The Nature Conservancy Article: With the Right Tools, Seaweed Can Be an Important Piece of the Climate Puzzle

4. SCIENCE DEEP DIVE: DEEP OCEAN SEAWEED CARBON SEQUESTRATION: Nature Geoscience Study: Carbon Export from Seaweed Forests to Deep Ocean Sinks

5. STATE-LEVEL BLUE CARBON STRATEGIES: The Pew Charitable Trusts Blue Carbon Network: Webinar Recording (April 25) — How 3 U.S. States Incorporate Coastal Habitats Into Climate Change Planning

1. AMERICAN CLIMATE CORPS: U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release: USDA Announces 28 Host Organizations to Train Future Conservation and Climate Leaders, as part of President Biden’s American Climate Corps

2. PRIVATE FOREST CONSERVATION: U.S. Department of Agriculture Press Release: Biden-Harris Administration Partners with States to Conserve 168,000 Acres of Private Forestlands as Part Of Investing in America Agenda

3. FOREST SERVICE CLIMATE ACTION MILESTONES: USDA Forest Service Press Release: USDA Forest Service Announces Milestones in Climate Action

4. SENTINEL LANDSCAPES PROGRAM: 

5. EXPLORE ACT & INCLUSION: Environmental & Energy Study Institute Article: How the EXPLORE Act is Promoting Accessibility on Public Lands

    1. ROADMAP 360º — CORPORATE CLIMATE DISCLOSURES:
    An article from CeresCeres Launches New Tool for Small to Medium-Sized Companies to Improve Their Sustainability Performance, announced the launch of Ceres Roadmap 360º, a new sustainability assessment tool aimed at assisting small to medium-sized companies in enhancing their sustainability performance. The Ceres Roadmap 360º is being launched at a critical time when the regulatory landscape for corporate transparency is shifting, with new rules requiring all U.S. public companies to disclose climate-related financial risks.

    2. CORPORATE CLIMATE DISCLOSURES: World Resources Institute Article: Corporate Climate Disclosure Has Passed a Tipping Point. Companies Need to Catch Up

    Did you find our newsletter helpful? Subscribe now to receive the complete edition, featuring climate job listings and upcoming significant events from our 28 coalition members, delivered straight to your inbox at the end of every month.

    Leon LaSalle and the Chippewa Cree Tribe: Making USDA Programs Work For Tribal Producers

    CLICK TO READ ARTICLE'S KEY POINTS
    • Leon LaSalle and the Chippewa Cree Tribe are leading a groundbreaking grant project to enhance conservation grazing practices and overcome barriers faced by tribal producers in accessing USDA programs.
    • The project provides a wide range of environmental benefits, including improved water quality and soil health, along with potential carbon sequestration. Economically, it enhances stability and reduces financial burdens during droughts for the Tribe.
    • Motivated by the struggles of tribal producers with USDA programs, Leon seeks to catalyze change through innovation, exemplifying tribal sovereignty in negotiating alternative funding arrangements under the 2018 Farm Bill.
    • Moving forward, several policy changes are needed for equitable access to Farm Bill Programs, including adjustments to livestock assistance programs and affordable crop insurance options for tribal producers.
    • The upcoming Farm Bill is an important opportunity for addressing these challenges, and the article advocates for the expansion of networks and involvement of private organizations to enhance access for tribal producers to Farm Bill programs.

    From the sweeping landscapes of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, a third-generation rancher named Leon LaSalle is tenaciously advocating to reshape the narrative for tribal producers. In an exclusive conversation with the Native American Agriculture Fund, a private funding organization dedicated to increasing access to capital for Native American producers, Leon delves into the triumphs and trials of their groundbreaking grant project aimed at enhancing conservation grazing practices and overcoming the barriers faced by tribal producers in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs.

    Confronting The Drought Dilemma

    As our climate changes and weather has become increasingly unpredictable, dealing with the impact of drought has become an increasingly pressing challenge for the Chippewa Cree and other tribes. Leon drove this point home in the interview, noting, “Droughts are a big deal, it’s an ongoing deal, and we know we have to plan for it, so that’s part of everything we are doing.” To mitigate the impacts of drought on tribal producers, Leon emphasized that proper infrastructure and management practices like the availability of forage and livestock water are important. However, tribal producers have historically faced difficulties accessing funding through USDA programs to enhance their conservation and climate mitigation practices.

    Leon’s project focuses on climate-smart conservation practices and advocacy, aiming to enhance conservation grazing on tribal lands and improve tribal producers’ access to USDA programs. Additionally, the project assesses the potential for carbon sequestration through grazing systems. In the interview, Leon underscored the significance of data sharing across reservations in Montana and neighboring regions. “Hopefully, this project will come up with data and positive results that can be shared within my reservation, with neighboring reservations, and across the whole country.”

    The project also provides a wide range of environmental benefits, including improved water quality and quantity, enhanced soil health, and the potential for carbon sequestration. Economically, improved stability and less reliance on emergency measures during droughts reduce the financial burdens faced by the Tribe.

    Sovereignty Into Action: Catalyzing Change Through Innovation

    Leon’s motivation for supporting the project was to address the longstanding struggles of tribal producers with USDA programs. “As an ex-employee of NRCS, I had witnessed first-hand tribal producers and tribal entities struggle with USDA programs and their implementation. One of my big drivers was to see if we could do something more than what the USDA was doing for tribal producers.” The Chippewa Cree Tribe fully supports this initiative, aiming to improve opportunities not only locally but also for tribes across the country.

    During the interview, Leon also discussed the challenges tribal producers face due to USDA program constraints, highlighting the project’s success in negotiating alternative funding arrangements (AFAs) under the 2018 Farm Bill. This achievement allows tribal producers to receive a full 90% cost share, addressing previous disparities where perceived cost shares were often 50% or less. “We have helped the Chippewa Cree Tribe and the Fort Belknap Indian Community successfully negotiate the two first alternative funding arrangements in the entire United States under the 2018 Farm Bill. Those are important because now in those arrangements, tribal producers are able to get a full 90% cost share. Under the old system, producers were led to believe they were getting 90% cost share, but because those were based on region-wide costs NRCS provided, most of the time those cost shares were 50% or less. This was leading to many producers canceling contracts and not moving forward. I think we’ve really opened up an avenue and set up a template that other tribes can follow and negotiate their own arrangements.” 

    The negotiated funding arrangements with the federal government exemplify tribal sovereignty in action. The AFAs can enable tribes to address the distinctive priorities of their communities. Considering the diverse cultures and environmental factors inherent to each sovereign tribal nation, it is imperative that tribes are at the forefront of decision-making in these processes, ensuring the implementation of programs align with the cultural values and needs of their tribal producers and community members.

    Increasing Equitable Access to Farm Bill Programs

    Leon also pointed out the need for several policy changes, including adjustments to livestock assistance programs, improved funding for tribal historic preservation offices, and affordable crop insurance options for tribal producers. He stressed that the upcoming Farm Bill provides an important opportunity for addressing these challenges. To scale up efforts in conservation and access to Farm Bill programs, Leon emphasized the importance of expanding the network of technical experts who can assist tribal producers. He also urged the involvement of private organizations to complement federal agency efforts. “To build upon success, we need to expand the network of technical people who can carry this work forward. It’s through private work that this will happen, and the federal agencies will not be our savior, we need to empower more organizations like the Intertribal Agriculture Council into the field that can assist tribal producers. It is time to break the stereotypical mold and come up with a different model. We need more people to help producers get it done on the ground.”

    Leon’s favorite memory from the grant project was successfully negotiating historical agreements with USDA, particularly AFAs, and changes to grazing management standards. “When we started that negotiation, it started from “this is our standard and this is what you have to do,” to “we can’t do that and we need a different avenue and maybe we need to involve other people in the negotiation,” to finalizing a process that opens the door for a lot more tribal participation through EQIP, CSP, and CRP. We were miles apart initially, but what is important is that it was achieved in support of tribal producers. These changes we are making now are forever, they are historic changes that will go on for future generations of tribal producers.”

    Leon LaSalle’s dedication to advancing conservation practices and advocating for tribal producers is truly inspiring. His insights and experiences shed light on the challenges and opportunities in achieving a more equitable and sustainable agricultural landscape for Native communities, illuminating a path forward.


    Additional Resources