RICHMOND — Farmers are adapting to numerous shifts in their industry, ranging from price hikes to the effects of climate change. A big change for agribusiness has been moving toward more sustainable methods of production.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture makes up 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The figures can be attributed to such things as the methane gas cows emit, manure management, rice production and burning crop residues.
Antonio Tovar, senior policy associate for the National Family Farm Coalition, said members of the group already have taken action. Aside from rotating land, Tovar observed there are plenty of other ways farmers can be more climate friendly.
“Covering crops is something that they have been adopting for a long period of time,” Tovar pointed out. “I will say probably half, if not more, of our members also produce organically. They do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides because it’s not a practice that is sustainable.”
The efforts come at a time when farmers are feeling the effects of climate change. Throughout the summer and early fall, most of the U.S. has been in a moderate drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of Virginia and the East Coast still are suffering from moderate drought.
In recent years, farming has also faced the challenge of higher land prices. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, farm prices have been on the rise since 2020, with their current value averaging $3,800 an acre.
Tovar feels land needs to be in the hands of people who want to farm, rather than more corporate farming entities, which he contended has led to a problem of devaluing farmers.
“This is not just a problem of the United States but globally, is we have not put enough value into farmers,” Tovar asserted. “The profession of farmers and farmworkers has not been valued in the way we should be valuing that work. It’s very hard. It’s not easy tasks.”
He hopes to educate more consumers about the food system and the importance of farmers. He wants people to better understand why a more democratic food system is necessary, so consumers can rally with them to affect those changes.