News

    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future

    As the dust settles in the Danish capital, a look at what changes could be in store for agriculture.

    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future
    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future

    In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference, many experts said agriculture should be a central issue in the discussions. After all, farmers are directly affected by climate change, they contribute up to a third of all man-made greenhouse gases, and they can also mitigate their impact by capturing excess carbon dioxide in the soil.

    Many farmers worldwide hoped that negotiators in Copenhagen would devise a way to shield them from the heat waves, droughts, floods, and other unpredictable weather predicted under climate change, and reward them for activities that trap greenhouse gases. But agriculture wasn't mentioned in the final accord signed December 18th by the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

    "So it's basically back to the drawing board as far as agriculture is concerned," says Ajay Vashee, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.

    Vashee says at least negotiators agreed on a framework for a possible future agreement that could include farmers.

    Farms vs. forests?

    Experts note that agriculture is a newcomer to climate negotiations. By comparison, it took several years of talks before reducing emissions from deforestation received a pledge of financial backing in Copenhagen.

    The details of that deal -- how countries can earn credit for preserving and restoring their forests -- are still sketchy, however. And the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest farmers' organization, warns that incentives to grow trees could backfire if they lead farmers to plant fewer crops.

    "People need to understand that there [are] going to be some trade-offs here," says Russell Williams, the Farm Bureau's director of regulatory relations. "If you're taking this much land out of production, what's that going to do to food prices? They really need to find a way, if they're going to move forward with this stuff, to have these forestry and agriculture offsets harmonized so you don't have a perverse incentive to forest land that's going to feed people."

    Farms + forests?
       
    David Waskow, climate change program director at the advocacy group Oxfam America, says there are circumstances in which the pro-forest and pro-farming camps could be in opposition. "But I think there are also ways in which they can be very mutually beneficial." He says in some cases, introducing trees into cropping systems can improve yields while storing carbon.

    "We've seen that in areas like the Sahel where farmers have increased tree cover, that's really been beneficial in terms of natural fertilizers, in terms of water retention," he says. "So there's actually quite a bit of synergy there."

    Philosophical rift

    Waskow says Oxfam is one of several organizations that prefer these kinds of ecologically-based solutions to the Western model of intensive agriculture using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

    There is a deep philosophical rift within the agriculture community on this issue. Those who say organic agriculture is the only way to go drew fire in Copenhagen from the Farm Bureau's Russell Williams.

    "You just have to stand up and say, 'Hey, wait a second. It doesn't do anybody any good to denigrate Western agriculture,'" he says. "And no matter what you think, and no matter what you say, Western agriculture has become the most efficient land use for food. The United States feeds a whole heck of a lot of people."

    And the world will have to feed a whole heck of a lot more people in the coming decades, experts say, even as a changing climate makes growing food more challenging. As climate change negotiations move forward, expect to see more sparks fly over the best way to reduce greenhouse gases while continuing to feed a hungry planet.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.