Climate and Soil Health Initiative - American Farmland Trust

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Climate and Soil Health Initiative

Growing solutions and resilience to climate change

AFT is committed to catalyzing a New Conventional Agriculture: one that is broadly climate-neutral or better, diverse, resilient, soil health promoting, equitable, and environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. To do so, we are elevating the role of farmers, ranchers, and the land they manage in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. From policy leadership and coalition-building to research, training, and on-the-ground demonstration projects, we are working to scale up the adoption of climate-smart and soil health-promoting agricultural systems. We work to ensure a prosperous and resilient future for farmers and the land that sustains us.

For America’s farmers, climate change is a daily reality. The climate crisis threatens farmers’ ability to nourish a growing human population while protecting our nation’s air, water, soil, and biodiversity. To keep planetary warming well below 2°C as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, conserving farmland, increasing the amount of carbon sequestered, and reducing agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG), emissions are essential to mitigate climate change and increase climate resiliency.

According to the latest U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory, agriculture is responsible for approximately 10% of U.S. emissions. The majority of these emissions are due to either nitrogen emissions from synthetic fertilizer application or methane emissions from animal agriculture. AFT is tackling both of these issues through various projects (see below), as well as exploring ways to build stable carbon in soils, which removes carbon from the atmosphere.

AFT supports farmers in adopting soil health practices that increase the amount of carbon sequestered in their soils, taking action to reduce GHG emissions, permanently protecting their farmland with a conservation easement, and hosting Smart Solar systems. The good news is that the systems of practices that reduce net GHG emissions also improve farmers’ bottom lines and build on-farm resilience to extreme weather while providing many ecosystem services, or co-benefits, for society. This includes water quality and quantity, biodiversity, and increased climate adaptation and resilience.

Bottom line? At AFT, we believe farmers and ranchers have been, and will continue to be, an essential part of the climate solution.

Healthy soil structure from a reduced-till organic grain farm in New Jersey. (Photo by Caro Roszell)

AFT was awarded a $30 million USDA Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities (PCSC) grant to help farmers build profitable climate-smart operations that reduce emissions from beef production. Producers will receive support for adopting improved practices through a Regenerative Grazing Mentorship network, incentives for climate-smart practices, and access to markets for climate-smart or carbon-neutral beef. (For ongoing updates and to participate in this project, please visit our climate-smart beef project page) In addition, AFT is a partner on four additional PSCP projects, including a climate-smart row crops project we co-lead with Truterra of Land O’Lakes, the prime awardee. We will train cohorts of soil health advisors through a series of Advanced Soil Health Trainings. In both projects, AFT is leaning into our role as educators and bridge builders. We are convening peer-to-peer networks and designing trainings that draw on our expertise in soil science, social science, on-the-ground implementation, and beyond, and are creating resources for others to use.


Additional current projects include: 

  • Advancing sustainable biochar production to use as a climate-smart tool in the soil health management systems toolbox. Several biochar resources, including an application FAQ and guidance for joining our biochar projects, as well as the recordings of the ongoing Practical Biochar Implementation webinar series, are available on the Farmland Information Center by searching “biochar.”
  • Our Conquering Cover Crop Challenges from Coast to Coast project is underway, showcasing new methods to encourage cover crop adoption.
  • We are partnering with Regrow to advance soil health mapping and modeling for corn grain, corn silage, soy, wheat, almonds, grapes, and hops.
  • We are building a collection of state reports that use our CaRPE tool to estimate how much each state’s farmers can contribute to climate mitigation goals and provide policy recommendations to get there.
  • AFT is working to advance policies that support farmers in adopting more of the practices that build resilience to and mitigate climate change in the 2023 Farm Bill.
  • Interested in the greenhouse gas benefit of avoided farmland conversion? So are we! We’ve completed a case study for a farm in Illinois, and we are developing a method for calculating this for ag conservation easements in the lower 48 states.
  • Our report, “Combatting Climate Change on U.S. Cropland,” focuses on the significant potential of no-till and cover crop practices to increase soil carbon sequestration and reduce nitrous oxide emissions for a net reduction in GHG emissions.

Watch for new publications on the Farmland Information Center, and sign up to be notified in this interest form or when we publish something new by emailing us at!

Our Strategies

We look to communities, organizations, governments, broader society, and individuals to shape the future of our New Conventional Agriculture. We need everyone at the table – from small to large farms, individual farmers and ranchers, and industry – to take bold actions that make a difference for our climate future. At AFT, we take a holistic approach to support all farmers, ranchers, and the land they manage—all scales and types of operations—to improve the ecological, social, and economic conditions of farms, ranches, and communities. Our work centers on supporting farmers and ranchers in the field, quantifying and analyzing the impacts of their actions, and developing and advocating for programs and policies that will catalyze an agriculture-wide shift towards these actions. These approaches are interwoven throughout our three key strategies below to help the agricultural community solve and build resilience to climate change:

Our Climate Work

The Rapidan River flows past Madison Mills in Orange County, Va., on July 21, 2017. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program with aerial support by Southwings)

AFT’s climate work is deeply intertwined with our other efforts to keep land in farming, keep farmers on the land, bring a diverse new generation onto the land, and promote sound farming practices at the regional and national scale. We focus on integrated approaches to mitigate climate change and enhance climate resiliency.

We are committed to creating an inclusive environment where diverse voices are active in all aspects of our climate efforts. You can learn more about our DEIJ statement here.

Meet our Team

Have a question, suggestion, or want to partner with us? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at or fill out our interest form here with comments.

In addition to the staff listed here, the Climate and Soil Health team also works with a cohort of talented Research Fellows who advance our scientific work.

Climate Projects & Initiatives

Climate Resources

View our reports, factsheets, explainer videos, webinars, and more.

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