Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your focus on global warming; however, I urge you to seize the opportunity to tap agriculture’s potential for mitigating climate change.
After 36 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, my husband and I ventured into grassfed beef farming. It was a giant learning experience. We practiced management intensive grazing (MIG); daily we rotated our steers to fresh grass-clover paddocks. We used no fertilizers or pesticides. Yet each year our pastures grew lush and our steers had good weight gain. And each year there was a growing market for our delicious and nutritious beef.
Soil tests in 2007 showed that we had doubled soil organic matter in 5 years from 4.1 to 8.3%. That meant photosynthesis had been drawing carbon from the atmosphere into our pastures. Analysis showed a net carbon sequestration. That finding started our family thinking about environment, climate change, and healthful foods.
In June 2004 National Geographic reported that conventional production of one steer used 283 gal. oil from birth to finish. In contrast, two colleagues in the Northeast Pasture Consortium stated that average lifetime use per grassfed steer on their farms was just 15-17 gal.!
The key to these findings is carbon. Drawing more carbon from the atmosphere into soils and minimizing oxidation of soil carbon will enhance soil fertility and also the volume and quality of food production. (Ref: 2013 UNCTAD, “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late. Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now For Food Security in a Changing Climate.”)
Somewhere between 30 and 50% of soil organic carbon has been lost to atmospheric CO2 in the last 100 years (Rattan Lal, OSU Ext. Fact Sheet). This is significant for two reasons: First, as we develop strategies to mitigate climate change, agriculture must be included and counted as a major source, and potential sink, of atmospheric CO2. Second, through thoughtful organic crop farming and MIG for livestock, significant amounts of CO2 can be naturally and inexpensively returned to the world’s soils. Because of the resulting benefits to human health and nutrition, and the potential to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions, I strongly encourage that you direct your negotiators at the upcoming IPCC convention in Paris to work these concepts into U.S. climate proposals.