New York Farmers and Farmland Play an Essential Role in the State’s Climate Solution
As New York State mobilizes to take swift and bold action on climate change, farmers are essential allies and a critical part of the state’s climate solution. Increasing adoption of climate-smart farming practices, protecting farmland, and implementing smart solar and smart growth strategies are imperative to not only help the state meet its ambitious climate goals, but also to secure a strong future for agriculture and provide continued economic and environmental benefits to all New Yorkers.
AFT’s new report, Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future, found that New York could lose as much as 642,000 acres, or nearly 10% of its existing farmland by 2040. In addition, the need for an additional 60 gigawatts of installed solar development to reach state clean energy goals could impact at least 330,000 acres of farmland.
The threat to New York’s farmland is greater than ever before – as is our need for it. AFT’s CaRPE tool also shows that if farmers were to adopt cover crops, reduced or no-till, and use of dairy manure or compost as a soil amendment on all the state’s cropland, this could reduce GHG emissions by over 2.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually, which would offset a third of annual agricultural emissions in New York.
American Farmland Trust participated alongside tens of thousands of New Yorkers in the public comment process on the draft New York Climate Scoping Plan to provide recommendations on how we can support farmers and save the land that sustains us as we work to meet the state’s climate goals.
1. Climate-smart farming strategies like nutrient management, feed management, and soil health practices provide a win-win for farmers’ bottom lines and the climate and should be an early priority for investment.
The programs and mechanisms to deliver financial and technical assistance to farmers implementing climate-friendly farming practices already exist and, with added investment, can be rapidly scaled up to accelerate emissions reductions from sources like nitrous oxide and methane, as well as increase carbon sequestration. The Environmental Bond Act can provide a critical source of funding to invest in climate adaptation, resiliency measures, and more farmland protection – if passed by voters in November!
2. We must center equitable access to programs for all farmers and for farms of all different types and sizes.
Every farm in New York, from large dairies to small, diversified vegetable farms, can help us reach our climate goals. It is important to make sure farmers have access to accurate, science-based information from sources they trust, and the technical and financial assistance they need to make the right management decisions for their farms. It is also vital to routinely evaluate programs through an equity lens to ensure they are supporting participation of underserved farmers including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) producers.
3. We need to support and coordinate planning for agriculture at the state, county, and municipal level to address intersecting development threats.
New York should increase technical and financial assistance to help communities of all sizes plan for agricultural resources within their communities. This includes developing farmland protection plans, incorporating smart-growth approaches into comprehensive plans, and creating or updating local land use laws to reflect smart solar principles. It is important to coordinate and align plans and goals across various levels of government.
4. We must accelerate farmland protection and land access efforts to secure a strong future for agriculture and ensure climate gains are maintained into the future.
Accelerating efforts to protect farmland and help a new generation of farmers gain access to land is critical to keeping our agricultural sector strong and maintaining carbon sequestration gains into the future. Protecting farmland keeps it available and more affordable for farmers and will also help New York work towards its goal of protecting 30% of land and water in the state by 2030. Helping farmers find secure land tenure also makes it possible for them to implement more intensive management strategies and conservation practices that require long-term investments of time, money, and effort.