“In 2012, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture accounted for approximately 8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture have increased by approximately 19% since1990.” ² These emissions contribute to overall climate change and reduction may help slow the impact on agriculture.³ ? Agriculture has the potential to immediately reduce individual farm emissions and to sequester more carbon that will help offset other emissions. Reduction in emissions and increase in carbon sequestration ultimately will increase agricultural sustainability, while improving the environment.
The lack of information about what emissions reduction practices would be most beneficial for Maine and New England farms and the need to educate agricultural service providers and farmers about the same, led collaborators to develop a suite of management practices that will reduce agricultural GHG emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration and a GHG emissions reduction certification program based on a whole farm assessment. Though the group focused on practices that will work for Maine farms, most will be applicable to other states with similar farms and climate. The overall goal of the project was to provide information to service providers to increase their ability to advise farmers on management practices that will increase their sustainability in the face of climate change. Certification, which may be useful to farmers for marketing or incentive purposes, is secondary to the importance of implementing the practices that will be beneficial for the environment and the farm.
A total of 49 extension educators, consultants, government employees, farmers, students and private professionals from five states attended two workshops held in Maine. Training at the first workshop consisted of an overview of agricultural GHG emissions, practices that reduce emissions, local, regional and national activities, research and data, quantification methods, program guidelines, resource availability and assessment of the farm to best serve the farmer. The second workshop reinforced concepts from the first and focused on adaptation and mitigation in a changing climate. A farmer panel discussed their practices and concerns related to climate change as well as suggestions for program needs and improvement. Participants received a program notebook and other information resources. The workshop training and tools will help providers prioritize management practices with potential to yield the most benefit to farms.
Ten participants provided written and/or verbal responses to questions about their follow-up actions with farmers. Two participants have held additional workshops and incorporated information into presentations. Six have worked directly with farmers, completing five whole farm assessments and recommending selected practices to an additional 61 farmers. Six farmers (potato, grain, mixed vegetable and livestock) have implemented recommended practices as a result of service provided. Practices implemented include planting cover crops and increasing energy efficiency of buildings. One of the farmers found it feasible to open a farm store and reduced fuel use associated with travel to several farm markets. Known outreach activities in addition to responses received have included 11 website postings and newsletters with a state-wide agricultural reach to over 8000 farms. In addition, about 5000 people (not all of whom are farmers) attend the annual Ag Trade show where information about GHG reduction practices was distributed each year.
35 professionals, representing Cooperative Extension, Conservation Districts, Agribusiness, State and Federal agencies, and others, will increase their knowledge of practices that reduce agricultural emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration. Of these participants, 30 will provide information to 1500 farmers through websites, newsletters and meetings. 15 will provide direct assistance and an initial whole farm GHG emissions to at least one farmer each, resulting in 7 farms implementing at least one change that will reduce emissions and/or increase carbon sequestration