ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IS A CRITICAL PART OF THE SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE
The global climate crisis requires us to develop and carry out bold, effective, multisector solutions. With the potential to mitigate the impacts of climate change, reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and support more ecologically and economically resilient communities, organic agriculture must be included as a cornerstone of our response to the climate crisis.
ORGANIC FARMING PRACTICES CAN MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE
By using techniques to build healthy, biologically active soils, organic agriculture has the potential to increase global soil carbon sequestration, mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Organic regulations (§205.203) require crop nutrient management practices that maintain and improve soil. These include crop rotations, cover cropping, and the application of plant and animal manures. Research has shown that if these standard practices were implemented globally, soil organic carbon pools would increase by an estimated 2 billion tons per year – the equivalent of 12% of the total annual GHG emissions worldwide.1
Organic regulations also prohibit the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which contribute to nitrous oxide emissions from soils. These emissions comprise 50.4% of all domestic agricultural emissions and have 310 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.1 Accelerated adoption of organic practices would eliminate a significant source of nitrous oxide emissions globally.
ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IMPROVES ECOLOGICAL RESILIENCE
Organic farmers use techniques like cover cropping, crop rotations, and plant and animal manures to build soil fertility and boost soil organic matter. Soils with a 1% increase in soil organic matter have been shown to have an increased water holding capacity of 20,000 gallons per acre. This increased water holding capacity improves resilience to flooding and drought, both of which Vermont is projected to experience more frequently as a result of climate change.
While conventional no-till systems build up soil organic carbon levels at rates comparable to organic production systems, providing similar benefits in terms of soil structure, carbon sequestration, and water retention, organic agriculture does not use herbicides or synthetic pesticides.2 As each of these can compromise soil biology,1 organic agriculture provides the same benefits as conventional no-till agriculture with fewer ecological harms.
ORGANIC AGRICULTURE increases the number of skilled farmers on the land
Rather than relying on costly chemical inputs, organic agriculture relies on the management, experience, and wisdom of farmers in partnership with biological processes. Organic farms also tend to be smaller and more intensively managed. By multiplying organic acreage, we diversify our production systems and multiply the number of skilled farmers on the land, making for a more resilient agricultural landscape and viable employment for more Vermonters.
Adding hundreds of organic farmers to Vermont’s working landscape means adding hundreds of knowledgeable individuals who are used to thinking carefully about the interface between farming and biology, expert in solving agronomic problems without purchased inputs, and are open to experimenting with new techniques.3
ORGANIC FARMING SUPPORTS COMMUNITY RESILIENCE AND BOOSTS RURAL ECONOMIES
Research has shown that counties in the United States with high levels of organic agricultural activity (“organic hotspots”) have higher household incomes and reduced poverty levels. One 2016 study by Penn State found that organic agriculture boosts economic development and reduces poverty at greater rates than general agricultural activity, and even more than major anti-poverty programs.4 In the study, counties that were organic hotspots had poverty rates drop on average by 1.3 percentage points and median income rise by over $2,000. 5 This demonstrates the potential for organic agriculture to support rural economies by improving livelihoods and increasing economic resilience.
- National Organic Coalition. (2017) Important Role of Organic Agriculture in Addressing Climate Change.
- Bryant, L. (2015) Organic Matter Can Improve Your Soil's Water Holding Capacity. NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/lara-bryant/organic-matter-can-improve-your....
- National Farmers Union. (2019) Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis: A Transformative Strategy for Canadian Farms and Food Systems. nfu.ca/publications/tackling-the-farm-crisis-and-the-climate-crisis.
- Organic Trade Association. (2016). U.S. Organic Hotspots and Their Benefit to Local Economies. ota.com/sites/default/files/Organic%20Hotspots.pdf.
- Jaenicke, E. C. (2016) U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies: Hotspot Identification, Formation, Impacts, and Policy Recommendations. ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/OTA-HotSpotsWhitePaper-OnlineVersion.pdf.