Climate Change and Farming
In recent years, farmers across Ohio and the country have increasingly struggled with severe and unpredictable weather, including drought, flooding, and dangerous storms. At the root of these challenges is a progressively warming planet that, if not mitigated, could dramatically transform American agriculture.
Conventional agriculture is a major contributor to global climate change, responsible for 10 percent or more of human-made carbon dioxide emissions, 60 percent of nitrous oxide emissions, and about 50 percent of the country’s methane emissions. A heavy reliance on petrochemical inputs, intensive cultivation of land and animals, long distance shipping, and indirectly, deforestation, which results in part from degraded and eroded soils, all contribute to the problem.
Local food systems and organic farming have smaller climate footprints for several reasons. Most importantly, organic farming is not dependent on petrochemical inputs—fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides—in which tremendous quantities of fossil fuel energy are embedded. Small and Amish farms operate less heavy machinery and growers who produce and market their products locally are less reliant on fossil fuels for transporting goods. Moreover, organic farming’s emphasis on soil quality results in sequestration of carbon in both the soil (due to higher organic matter content) and above ground biomass (due to crop rotations emphasizing cover crops and green manures).
Not only do organic and sustainable farming systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also outperform conventional farming during drought and weather stress which are likely to become more frequent in a warming world.
It is essential that we respond quickly and aggressively to the threat of climate change. A shift toward organic farming methods and away from fossil fuels is necessary to avoid the worst effects of a warming planet.