Although the agricultural sector is a significant source of greenhouse gases and contributes to the problem, it does have the potential to play a significant role in the overall solution of the problem. The agricultural industry is in a unique position to sequester greenhouse gases, thereby offsetting not only its own emissions but also those of other industries.
According to research done by the Environmental Defense Fund, because the agricultural industry has the ability to offset and counterbalance global warming gases, American agriculture has unique opportunities unlike that available to any other industry. The research also contends that if farmers and livestock owners voluntarily choose to alter some of their on-farm practices, they are also in a unique position to access a new carbon market while simultaneously improving the health of their land and water resources.
According to a report that appeared in Farm Journal on January 11, 2006, "Climate changes affect every aspect of how you farm and what you produce."
Based on results from research by NOAA and NASA, farmers know that global warming will probably cause severe droughts in the United States Corn Belt, and will likely increase the occurrence of pests and disease everywhere. While it is true that some areas may experience longer growing seasons that farmers will be able to take advantage of— such as being able to produce two crops instead of just one—they are also aware that long-term negative impacts from climate change will most likely far outweigh any short-term benefits.
Of several opportunities for farmers to contribute to the reduction of global warming by reducing heat-trapping emissions, two major ways where they can make this happen are: (1) increasing the efficiency and storage of carbon in the soil, and (2) producing renewable energy. In order to promote the occurrence of these options, the U.S. federal government has put economic incentives in place to encourage farmers to participate in related programs. For instance, farmers who adopt new practices are allowed to enter new markets and be paid for not only what crops they grow but also for the methods by which they grow them.
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