More Michigan farmers stand up to climate-change threats

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click to enlarge More Michigan farmers stand up to climate-change threats

With farms and ranches on the front lines of climate change, there's a new effort to keep their lands resilient.

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance includes forest owners, food producers, state governments, and conservation groups.

Madu Anderson, director of governmental relations for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, explained the warming climate is a real threat to the state's 100-billion-dollar agricultural industry.

"We're seeing some more variations in weather, the planting season for various crops has changed," said Anderson. "So, it's important that we support our farmers as they try to address these changes at their farms."

The alliance is promoting federal policies that focus on soil health, livestock and dairy, and forests.

Anderson said they're encouraging and supporting farmers and ranchers who transition to climate-smart practices, and offering incentives to increase on-farm renewable energy and reduce energy consumption.

Anderson explained this means promoting practices like the use of cover crops and precision-nutrient farming.

"For example, in Michigan, we work in the Saginaw Bay region," said Anderson. "And we're encouraging more and more farmers and agricultural producers to adopt these practices. And by providing incentives, we'll get better participation."

While there is a cost and risk to adopting practices like the use of cover crops, Pipa Elias — The Nature Conservancy's director of agriculture for North America — said it's ultimately a win-win.

"It kind of pays off, in terms of having a viable agriculture economy in this country," said Elias. "And on the farms themselves, a lot of these practices are beneficial over the course of a few years to farmers and ranchers, and actually helping the economics on their farm."

The alliance is also encouraging a public-private partnership to reduce the greenhouse-gas impact of food waste and loss within the food supply chain, and increasing federal investments in agriculture, forestry, and food-related research.

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