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Policy Recommendations for Agriculture-Climate Research

Robust and targeted research and science are fundamental to U.S. food and agriculture’s response to climate change. Our research recommendations outline priorities to enable USDA to bring climate change mitigation solutions within a broader scope of federal and private investment in agricultural research. Research can improve the evidence base around climate-smart agriculture where there are still gaps, identify and inform strategies to overcome barriers to adoption at scale, monitor trends in GHG emissions and sequestration on agricultural and forest lands, and align goals at the farm scale with those of ecosystems and society at larger scales.

We focus on USDA and its federal partners as these provide the largest levers to achieve scale of mitigation. At the same time, these recommended actions support and expand upon important work being conducted by land grant institutions, other universities and institutes, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), commodity and grower groups, and the private sector.

Robust and targeted research and science are fundamental to U.S. food and agriculture’s response to climate change and our ability to leverage the sector to provide natural climate solutions. We recommend that USDA:

  • Immediately create a “Climate Research Coordinator” position to develop a coherent climate research strategy across all USDA agencies, coordinate climate research with other federal agencies, and engage with external research stakeholders.
  • Build the business case for climate-smart agricultural practices (i.e., conduct pre-competitive analysis and modeling that demonstrates the economic value associated with climate-smart agriculture practices).
  • Develop and pilot tools for farmers and university researchers to access anonymized USDA datasets.
  • Ensure that diverse farmers, ranchers, and farming systems can participate in federal conservation programs and adopt climate-smart agricultural practices.
  • Improve the rigor and transparency of climate models and measurements to support the efforts of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory and private ecosystem service markets.