Last week the USDA released a new report on climate change and agriculture in the United States.

USDA report

Combining professional input and scientific research from the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private sectors, this peer-reviewed study provides an extensive overview of the climate change effects on U.S. agricultural production, suggesting that while farmers and ranchers have a long history of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of projected climate change effects over the next century requires major adjustments—simply put, we need to take action to moderate those effects in the United States, and worldwide.

This report is interesting as it addresses the need for adaptation and includes a healthy dose of sustainable agriculture practices as recommendations. What will conventional ag producers in the Heartland states think of such recommendations?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this new report from the USDA.

Welcome Rachel Myslivy, CEP’s newest program director, who is leading the way with our On Farm Water + Energy Efficiency Project.

Read more about her project below.

The warmer weather this weekend brought dreams of springtime to my mind…lush, green pastures, and life bursting anew…but a cursory glance around the farm called these dreams into doubt.  While the dormancy of winter masks some of the harshness of the drought, the Kansas Water Office’s weekly drought report provide reminders of the severity of the situation. What will the spring look like this year?

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 It goes without saying that the farmers are the hardest hit by the drought.  But Kansas farmers don’t give up easily.  They are resilient, determined and innovative.  CEP’s newest project focusing on Water and Energy efficiency on the farm seeks to spotlight innovations in energy efficiency and water conservation on Kansas farms.

 The On Farm Water + Energy Efficiency Project identifies innovative approaches to water and energy usage on the farm.  In a time of decreasing resources, both financial and natural, our hopes are to help farmers impact their bottom line while conserving water and energy. The primary goal of the project is to identify Kansas farmers who are successfully addressing water and energy usage in innovative ways. The stories of working innovations will be shared widely as examples for others to learn from and replicate.

These practical examples from Kansas farms will spur further innovations and add to the toolkit of resources for on-farm efficiency.  The project focuses on real-life, practical solutions currently happening on the ground in Kansas.

The project brings together a diverse steering committee representing agriculture, natural resources, energy and water organizations.  Members of the steering committee are sending in nominations of innovative farmers.  There are some amazing farmers out there and we are excited to recognize them as stewards and leaders in water conservation and energy efficiency.  If you know of someone who fits the bill, please contact Rachel Myslivy for more information:  myslivy@climateandenergy.org or 785-424-4115.

 

With severe drought impacting over 50% of the US this summer, diversified revenue on the farm is critical to the ongoing economic success of farm families. For many, off farm jobs and natural gas and oil leases have been part of the formula for keeping the family farm in operation. Over the last 10 years wind energy has become a another revenue stream in the increasingly complex world of farm finances.

Bob Dean’s has a well written article on the Huffington Post that brings together the importance  of revenue payments from wind turbines to individuals and communities in tough times such as this year’s drought. Read on for a more:

“Welcome in any year, income from wind turbines has become an economic lifeline for thousands of farmers and ranchers like Carter across the country’s vast heartland. With more than half the country searing in the worst drought in half a century, much of the nation’s corn, wheat and grasslands parched to ruin and cattle ranchers struggling to feed or liquidate their herds, wind turbines are providing back-up income that is helping to keep family farms and ranches alive.

“It’s truly a blessing for us,” said Carter. “It’s kind of like the sky falls with a little more rain.”

Windmills have been part of the landscape of the American West for more than a century, harnessing the force of the wind off the plains to pump water from wells or generate electricity for homes long before power lines crisscrossed the country….

Similar sentiments are being echoed across the American breadbasket, where the summer drought has meant hard times not just for ranchers and farmers, but for the tractor dealers, grain brokers, lumber yards, hardware stores and myriad other businesses that rise and fall on the fortunes of agriculture.

“If affects everything in rural America,” said Jury. “It affects the whole economy. A year like this, everybody kind of goes into survival mode and pulls back. You’re just struggling trying to stay afloat.”

This is just more evidence that the all-of-the-above approach to energy policy of  Governor Brownback and fellow KS leaders makes sense for Kansas communities and Kansas farmers.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, Director of Communications and Special Projects

Huge thanks to Nancy, Eileen, Christina, and Ben who blogsat while MH was away.

Drought has returned to the High Plains (with a vengeance) (NASA Earth Observatory). Click that link for lots of supercool maps and other visuals.  Like this one (hopefully it will post).

Soil moisture is decreasing. There is hardpan in some places, leading to dust in others. All reminiscent of the Dust Bowl.

Wisconsin just finished its version of the Kansas KEEP climate action plan process. To read their final report click here. From the highlights – near, mid, and long range greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals:

GHG emissions in Wisconsin increased 1.2% per year from 1990 through 2003 and are projected to continue rising by 1% per year absent any policy changes. To reverse this trend and achieve Wisconsin’s proportionate share of the reductions required to minimize the impacts of global warming, the Task Force recommends three aggressive but achievable goals for Wisconsin:

A return to 2005 emission levels no later than 2014

A 22% reduction from 2005 levels (approximately equal to 1990 levels) by 2022

A 75 % reduction from 2005 levels by 2050.

Wind power financing. Minneapolis-based Midwest Wind Finance (MWF), which finances community wind farms, is moving into financing for developers (NAWindpower).

Also, Dan Nagengast of the Kansas Rural Center has posted a wind financing handout (.pdf).

— Maril Hazlett, www.climateandenergy.org