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Forging Resilient Agri-Food Systems: USDA's Pioneering Approach in APEC Summit

On August 3, 2023, United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack headed the Food Security Ministerial during the U.S. Host Year of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC). He emphasized the interconnectedness of agri-food systems, climate change, food security, and sustainable productivity growth. Check out the press release for more details.

USDA also announced two new initiatives, namely the Food Security Dashboard and the Interim Instructional Field Guides. The Dashboard will supply decision-makers with vital data on different aspects of food and nutrition security, giving insights into the role trade plays in food security. The Interim Instructional Field Guides, produced through various programs during the APEC U.S. Host Year, will serve as a resource for improving sustainable water and food security, enhancing public-private innovation in food safety, and implementing strategies to curb agriculturally generated greenhouse gas emissions. Below is a summary of the Field Guide. The fuller, more detailed Field Guide can be found by accessing this link.

Field Guide Summary

Chapter 1: Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques Workshop

Chapter 1: Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques Workshop

Presented by Allison Thomas, Managing Director of Trade Policy and Geographic Affairs, USDA.

  • Goal: To equip participants with knowledge, strategies, and foster partnerships aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in agriculture.
  • Key Topics:
    1. Methane Reduction: Science reveals that methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Addressing its release from agricultural practices is pivotal.
    2. Efficient Use of Fertilizer: Proper fertilizer application can reduce nitrous oxide emissions, another significant GHG. Emphasis is on techniques that maximize plant uptake while minimizing waste and environmental impact.
    3. Agricultural Productivity & Climate Change: How shifts in climate impact agricultural yields and what can be done to mitigate these effects.
    4. Climate Hubs across APEC: Establishing hubs focused on climate and agriculture to share best practices and promote collaboration.

Urgency: The urgency of addressing GHG emissions is heightened by threats to food security, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing climate change, and global conflicts like that in Ukraine. Collaborative efforts are vital to ensure food security by adapting to climate change, promoting sustainable practices, and reducing food waste.

Farmer Involvement: Recognizing the role of farmers and producers in climate change solutions. Emphasis on providing them with the tools and knowledge to actively participate in climate mitigation efforts.

U.S. Strategy: Focus on voluntary incentive-based and market-based approaches to alter food production frameworks. This includes the creation of new markets, supporting companies in reducing their GHG emissions, and fostering strong partnerships.

Overall Perspective: Climate change permeates every sector of agri-food systems, influencing production, processing, and distribution. Collaborative global action is imperative for sustainable future food systems.

Chapter 2: Innovations in Methane Reduction and Fertilizer Use

Chapter 2: Innovations in Methane Reduction and Fertilizer Use

  1. Introduction & Global Context

    This panel session focuses on methane emissions reductions and fertilizer use optimization, covering manure management, enteric fermentation, rice cultivation, and enhanced efficiency fertilizers. Agriculture is a significant contributor to global methane emissions, primarily from developing economies due to vast agricultural lands and high productivity.

  2. Hayden Montgomery (Global Methane Hub)

    • Key Statistics: 40 percent of global methane emissions come from agriculture, with 70 percent of this from enteric fermentation.
    • Global Methane Hub's Role: Established during COP 26, this hub supports signatories to mitigate methane emissions.
    • Enteric Fermentation R+D Accelerator: An initiative aiming to reduce methane emissions from livestock, it focuses on feed additives, livestock breeding, and the rumen microbiome ecosystem. The goal is to promote consumer confidence through large-scale, real-world trials.
  3. Dr. Nguyen Anh Phong (Viet Nam's Center for Agriculture and Rural Development)

    • Rice & Vietnam: Rice is central to Vietnam's economy, but its production emits significant GHGs.
    • Main Emission Drivers: Inefficient water usage, excess fertilizer use, high seeding density, poor rice residue management, and inefficient energy use.
    • Proposed Solutions: Alternative Wetting and Drying (AWD), the One Must Five Reductions (1M5R) approach, and digital technologies to optimize inputs.
    • Recommendations: Prioritize economic instruments like carbon tax and irrigation fees; leverage IoT platforms for farmers; support low-carbon rice production through various initiatives.
  4. Dr. Josh McGrath (OCP North America)

    • The Nitrogen Dilemma: Nitrogen fertilizer production uses 2 percent of global energy, but its efficiency is less than 50 percent.
    • Efficiency Pathways: Several techniques, including green production, nitrification inhibitors, and demand reduction, can boost fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency (NUE).
    • Local Variability: Effective solutions must consider local climates and specific field conditions.
    • Future of Fertilizers: Need for site, time, and crop-specific recommendations; balance between nitrogen supply and requirements; importance of yields in driving NUE.
  5. Dr. Douglas Smith (US Department of Agriculture)

    • EEFs in the US: Trends show variable efficacy of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers (EEFs) in reducing nitrogen emissions.
    • Mitigating Risks: Precision fertilizer management and avoiding nutrient applications can lower environmental risks.
    • Trade-offs: Using phosphorous fertilizers can reduce methane in rice systems when combined with sulfate, but it can also increase methane emissions in lakes due to eutrophication.

Key Takeaways:

  • Agriculture plays a substantial role in methane and GHG emissions, especially in developing economies.
  • Technological innovations, including feed additives, water management techniques, and precision farming, can significantly reduce emissions.
  • Local specificity is crucial in designing and implementing these technologies.
  • Balancing economic and environmental considerations is essential to ensure the adoption and scaling of these innovations.

Chapter 3: Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques and Inclusivity

Chapter 3: Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques and Inclusivity

In the panel session titled "Diversity and Inclusivity," the emphasis was on the significance and benefits of involving diverse populations in environmental decision-making. This comprises indigenous people, women, youth, other underrepresented communities, and local populations. The sessions demonstrated how inclusion can lead to more effective solutions to combat climate change and ensure climate-smart agriculture. Three key presentations are highlighted:

  1. Gideon Kruseman from Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Platform for Big Data in Agriculture

    • Main Point: Climate change disproportionately impacts disadvantaged and minority groups. These communities are often more vulnerable due to limited resources to adapt to climate shifts.
    • Science: Climate change effects, like droughts and natural disasters, have severe consequences for communities involved in traditional practices or those responsible for resources like water and firewood.
    • Solution: Kruseman advocates for holistic, inclusive decision-making. CGIAR's Foresight Initiative uses analytics to provide insights into food, land, and water systems transformation pathways. Recognizing macro-trends and localizing the focus can lead to better policy recommendations. Collaboration with local entities and data systems is crucial for effective strategies.
  2. Dr. Elisabeth Grinspoon from the United States Forest Service

    • Main Point: Environmental justice plays a crucial role in climate adaptation.
    • History: Inspired by the American Civil Rights Movement, environmental justice got federal recognition in 1994 through Executive Order 12898. This order emphasized the need to address environmental impacts on low-income and minority communities.
    • Case Study: The BLT Vegetation Project in the Cascade Mountain Range demonstrated successful environmental justice, as it considered the needs of migrant Matsutake mushroom pickers, predominantly of Asian descent. Efforts ensured their economic livelihoods were not compromised while protecting forest health.
    • Current Efforts: The Biden Administration's Executive Orders 13985 and 14008 promote equity and environmental justice. The Forest Service's Climate Action Plan and National Tribal Relations Action Plan from 2022 and 2023, respectively, focus on addressing climate risks for minority communities and reinforcing tribal relationships.
  3. Shiloh Babbington from the Indigenous Research Network, New Zealand

    • Main Point: Indigenous inclusivity brings unique value in environmental efforts.
    • Initiative: The Indigenous Research Network (IRN) was set up by New Zealand and Samoa to recognize indigenous traditional knowledge systems and their profound connection to the land.
    • Benefit: IRN offers leadership opportunities for Māori and indigenous groups, enhancing their professional prospects. Collaborative research promotes both traditional knowledge and New Zealand's environmental priorities.

Chapter 4: Field Guide on Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques

Chapter 4: Field Guide on Climate-Smart Agricultural Techniques

  1. Introduction

    The panel session addressed "Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Shocks and Long-Term Adaptation Planning," focusing on the Hub model from Australia, the United States, and Canada. This model promotes collaboration between government, scientists, and agricultural stakeholders to combat climate change.

  2. Australia’s Approach: The Future Drought Fund

    • Speaker: Katrina Baxendell
    • Objective: Enhance drought resilience in Australia’s agriculture sector, landscapes, and communities.
    • Key themes:
      • Better climate information
      • Better planning
      • Better practices
      • Better prepared communities
    • Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hubs: Consists of eight regional hubs with over 250 members. They facilitate collaboration between researchers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders for over 30 projects that focus on user needs.
    • Examples of Hub Projects:
      • Climate Smart Agriculture Adoption: Increases soil organic matter and water use efficiency.
      • Landscape-Scale Change: Demonstrates modern pasture space use for enhanced drought resilience.
  3. USA’s Approach: USDA Climate Hubs

    • Speaker: Dr. Julian Reyes
    • Objective: Provide region-specific climate information to agricultural and natural resource decision-makers.
    • Framework:
      • Science and Data Synthesis: To understand climate vulnerabilities and develop mitigation strategies.
      • Tool and Technology Development: Create useful tools for tracking and responding to climate change, like the Grass-Cast Tool and AgRisk Viewer.
      • Outreach and Training: Develop educational modules and community guides on climate events and disaster preparedness.
    • Future Goal: Expand engagement in underserved areas via a $9 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
  4. Canada’s Approach: Living Labs

    • Speaker: François Chrétien
    • Objective: Accelerate the development and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in Canada.
    • Principles:
      • User-centric innovation
      • Collaborative problem-solving
      • Real-life context implementation on functional farms.
    • Case Study: The Ontario Living Lab investigated the impact of farm practices on Lake Erie’s water quality. They found that healthier soil retains more nutrients, reducing runoff into the lake.

Chapter 5: Best Practices and Solutions for Agriculture and Climate Investments

Chapter 5: Best Practices and Solutions for Agriculture and Climate Investments

  1. Claudia Godfrey - Profonanpe, Peru

    • Presentation Topic: Boosting Climate Investments for Adaptation & GHG Mitigation in Amazonian Bio Businesses.
    • Science & Techniques: Eco bio-businesses (EBBs) combat climate change, reduce deforestation, and enhance resilience and environmental sustainability. They also promote social integrity, sustainability, and gender equity.
    • Investment Strategies:
      • Technical assistance to enhance eco bio-businesses.
      • Reimbursable grants to scale eco bio-businesses.
      • Investor roundtable for business-investor linkage.
    • Amazon Eco Bio Business Facility: Uses Green Climate Fund Grants to provide technical assistance and repayable grants under Peru's REDD+ framework.
  2. Imelda “Dada” Bacudo - Advisor to ASEAN

    • Presentation Topic: Agriculture Sector's readiness for enhanced climate finance and the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture in Southeast Asia.
    • Science & Techniques: The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) guides regional climate actions in agriculture, such as scaling finance for sustainable agriculture, improving technology access, and bolstering monitoring capacities.
    • Achievements: Examples include the Laos-Thailand Maize Seed Village Exchange and guidelines for smart agriculture.
    • Challenges: Fragmented planning, accessing private finance, and difficulties in scaling climate interventions.
    • Initiatives: SEA GCF Readiness Grant - aligns agricultural development plans with KJWA regional priorities and respective national climate change policies.
  3. Michael Chorske - Pegasus Capital Advisors

    • Presentation Topic: The Global Subnational Climate Fund and its Scalable Impact on Mid-size Emerging Markets' Climate Infrastructure.
    • Science & Techniques: The Global Sub-Economy Climate Fund (SCF) advances four impact outcomes, emphasizing low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure, climate change mitigation, and improving livelihoods.
    • Investment Strategy: SCF follows scalable greenfield investments in high-growth areas, diversifying geographically and by sector.
    • Project Examples:
      • Scaled Agroforestry Model in Jamaica: Promotes forestry in harmony with agriculture.
      • African Foods Company in Mali and Senegal: Supports climate-resilient agricultural practices.
      • Temperature Controlled Logistics in Morocco and Senegal: Enhances food storage and transportation under changing climate conditions.