Soil professor receives $250k prize for helping farmers fight climate change

by Jessica Craig, NPR


Rattan Lal, professor and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, has been recently named the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate for his research on healthy soils.

  • Lal has been the champion of farming techniques that keep and add nutrients in the soil and his “soil-centric” methods help prevent deforestation, mitigate climate change, and increase biodiversity
  • Important nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen are key to healthy soils, but erosion and unsustainable farming practices have stripped soils of these nutrients
  • About one-third of the world’s soil has been degraded, according to the United Nations
  • Carbon sequestration from conservation agriculture and land restoration could remove 2-3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, offsetting 15% of global carbon emissions
  • Currently, a little over a quarter of farmers practice some version of no-till and crop cover agriculture today
    • Farmers would have to invest in planting seeds that would not be harvested and sold, putting them at a loss
  • Lal advocates for governments to fund farmers of “ecosystem services” such as producing healthy soils with sustainable farming practices
    • This payment would be $16 per acre a year, totaling $64 billion globally

Implementing bold and equitable policies that will catalyze carbon sequestration through building healthy soils and restoring healthy habitats will be key to achieving drawdown greater than emissions (net-negative emissions) by 2030 for a climate-safe California.

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Farmers in Rockingham County, Virginia check the results of no-till farming in their fields on September 9, 2008, as part of their participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI).

A closer look at farmer relief in senate pandemic aid package

from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the President to aid businesses and Americans features specific provisions targeting farmers and food insecurity.

  • Agricultural Provisions
    • An important measure of the relief bill helps provide support for producers impacted by the coronavirus, specifically for specialty crop producers, livestock producers (including dairy), and producers that supply local food systems (including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools)
    • Farmers who have lost access to direct markets as a result of social distancing restrictions are estimated to lose more than $1 billion in sales this year
    • The bill lacks specifics on implementation, providing USDA no direction about how either source of funds should be divided, which farmers should receive priority, or how payments should be structured and delivered
    • The largest advocacy organizations that represent the ag industry have already made requests of Congress for more than $20 billion in immediate support
    • Fourteen billion dollars will be going to the Commodity Credit Corporation, a government corporation that helps maintain farm income and prices
  • Nutritional Provisions
    • Congress did not expand benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which will become increasingly important as more Americans face unemployment and may not be able to afford meals
    • The bill boosts funding for targeted emergency food assistance for tribal communities 
    • Child nutrition programs received over $8 billion in funding

Implementing bold and equitable policies that will catalyze carbon sequestration through building healthy soils and restoring healthy habitats will be key to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 and net negative emissions by 2035 for a Climate-Safe California.

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As Congress debates an economic stimulus, where should the money be spent?

by Ken Kimmel, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists


  • Current situation: Federal government response to COVID-19: In Washington DC a bi-partisan effort to help the country cope with COVID-19 is underway. So far, one immediate emergency bill appropriated approximately $8 billion designed to treat and prevent the virus. A second bill has also passed that provides for extended sick leave and free testing for the virus. A third bill is also being debated to stimulate the economy by providing cash to many who are losing or will lose their jobs and helping states to cope with growing unemployment rolls.
  • A unique moment: Estimates of unemployment may be as high as 30%. It seems likely that these initial bills will fall far short of the stimulus needed to prevent an economic freefall. And so there will be pressure to do more to stimulate the economy, create jobs and consumer demand, either through direct government expenditures, tax credits, loans, or other means. This means the government will be directly and massively guiding the direction of the economy—a circumstance that may not happen again for years or decades.
  • The COVID-19 stimulus will likely not include the funds for the entire mobilization needed to address climate change. However, the stimulus can be a substantial down payment for the transition to a clean energy economy
  • Cleantech woes related to COVID-19: The solar industry is projecting to lose as much as thirty percent volume with job losses as high as 120,000 (almost half their workforce), and the wind industry estimates that 35,000 jobs and $43 billion in investments are at risk. Electric vehicles, which were starting to finally catch on, may stall as consumers hesitate to pay the higher up-front costs for an EV. These industries had robust job growth prior to the pandemic and supported the direction the world needs to move to avoid catastrophic climate tipping points. Thus, any government stimulus needs to support these industries, while moving away from fossil fuels.
  • Sustainable agriculture issues: Sustainable practices that build soil health and resilience to climate impacts are proving profitable for farmers and their communities. Thus, if the economic stimulus includes funds for farmers, the focus should be on incentivizing farmers to adopt sustainable practices. Once they take hold, they will flourish, but they need an economic nudge now.
  • Requirements of a bailout: In any bailout of industries, there must be strings attached to protect the public interest. For example, any bailout of the airlines should include a requirement to decarbonize over time.
  • Costs of a bailout: It is immoral to place the entire cost of this stimulus on future generations. This stimulus will be financed mainly through debt, but there are ways of paying for some of it now. For example, a concerted effort can be made to cut federal spending on things we don’t need and which do not generate jobs or stimulate the economy. A poster child example of this is the proposed trillion-dollar plan to rebuild the US nuclear arsenal.
  • Moving fast and in the public interest: COVID-19 is rapidly accelerating the usual timetable of congressional legislation. It is likely that in the next few weeks Congress will approve trillions of dollars in new spending. There will not be time for hearings, expert testimony, and vigorous public debate. Lawmakers must focus on the long-term direction of the economy, placing public interest conditions on bailouts to industries, and refraining from unnecessary spending to keep the debt in check.

The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign is a powerful solution to the climate crisis. Climate experts have called this a unique, bold, urgently needed and comprehensive campaign that will catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation, and the world. Endorse the Climate-Safe California platform here.

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