Advocate: Preserving farmland could help the climate
If managed well, farmland can soak up heat-trapping carbon pollution.
(Photo credit: Bob Nichols, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)
In many parts of the U.S., family farms are disappearing and being replaced by suburban sprawl.
“Our estimates are that farmland loss is occurring at an alarming 175 acres per hour,” says Jennifer Moore Kucera of the American Farmland Trust.
She says when farmland is lost to development, it’s not only a problem for agriculture. It can also hinder climate action.
Although many farming methods can make climate change worse, farmers also have the potential to store a lot of carbon on their land through practices like cover crops and minimized tilling.
According to the U.S. Climate Alliance, managing natural and working lands so they store more carbon is a key strategy to limit global warming.
But Kucera says when farmland is lost to development, it significantly reduces the potential to sequester carbon in the soil.
“And it also then increases the pressures that are put on the remaining lands to support and produce the food that we need for society,” she says. “We might need more resources, more inputs, water use is going to become more critical, and that just increases the stress on the land.”
So Kucera says protecting farmland and promoting denser urban growth can help the climate.