Climate Action

Agriculture squeezed by demand, climate

U.S. agriculture faces the daunting task of growing enough crops to meet the demands of both a hungry world and the booming new biofuels industry while reducing its impact on climate change.

  • 22 September 2008
  • Simione Talanoa

U.S. agriculture faces the daunting task of growing enough crops to meet the demands of both a hungry world and the booming new biofuels industry while reducing its impact on climate change.

That formidable challenge hung over discussions this week at a U.S. soybean industry conference that chewed over topics from biodiesel fuels to agriculture's own greenhouse gases.

Agriculture was seen by some as a boon, producing alternative fuels that can reduce the man-made emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cited by most scientists as the prime mover in global climate change.

But others were concerned about agriculture's own contributions to climate change and agriculture as a potential target in future government policies on climate change.

Agriculture accounts for more than 10 percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions through fertilizers, rice and livestock production, deforestation and other land use, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in 2007.

"There's tremendous pressure building in this country for some kind of plan that addresses climate change," Tom Vilsack, former governor of the top U.S. corn and soybean growing state of Iowa, told the conference.

"The next administration, whether it's John McCain or Barack Obama, either one will not do the job that needs to be done unless the president and vice president say unequivocally that the single most important domestic issue for this country to embrace over the next four years is energy and climate change," Vilsack said.

"Climate change requires agriculture reducing its environmental footprint -- that's the big point," said Jane Earley, an attorney consulting on international standards and investment in the biofuels, food and agribusiness sectors.

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Source: Reuters