By Eliav Bitan, Policy and Partnerships Associate for the Rodale Institute
Throughout the past decade, farmers have had to grow food in the face of a climate crisis that has consisted of rising temperatures, more frequent storms, strong floods, and lengthy droughts. Globally, an estimated one-third of all human caused greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions are from our food system and land use changes, which include GHGs emitted to grow, process, package, transport, store, and dispose our food. However, there is hope for the future by converting famers to using organic methods.
Organic farming is one of the best ways to confront climate change because it removes the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil. Studies have shown that organic agriculture systems emit 48%-66% less carbon dioxide per about 2.5 acres than conventional farming systems that rely on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. If all the farms in America were organic, each year they could remove an amount of carbon dioxide equal to twenty five percent of annual US carbon dioxide emissions. That adds up to a lot of carbon dioxide—1.7 billion metric tons, or 1.7 gigatonnes. For comparison, non-organic farming currently produces seven percent of US carbon dioxide emissions.
Removing carbon dioxide is only half the story. In years of drought and flood, the Rodale Institute’s organic fields produced about thirty percent more food than non-organic fields. This is because organically managed soil has better structure than chemically treated soil. This means the soil holds more water in drought years, and erodes less in flood years. Organically managed soils hold up better in droughts and floods and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Farmers who practice organic management are investing in food systems that can have an enormous impact on the climate crisis. Our leaders in Washington D.C. should reward them with a climate policy that credits farmers who sequester carbon in their soil. An example of this is supporting a policy that will measure the carbon farmers’ store in their soil, and award them carbon credits for their hard work.
By being a part of a CSA you are already helping to combat climate change! You are avoiding many of the GHG emissions associated with transport, packaging, and selling of produce. It is important to keep up your support for local, organic farmers because a food system that is more focused on organic and sustainable food production will help to reduce GHG emissions for our future, while improving the world’s environmental health and economic needs.
If you are interested in reading more about the impact organic farming, visit: http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/global_warming