Farmers and Policymakers Work Together to Combat Climate Change
By Ellen Griswold, Maine Farmland Trust and Melissa Law, Bumbleroot Farm
For Melissa Law, one of four farmers at Bumbleroot Farm in Windham, Maine, climate change is deeply personal, as she has been forced to adapt to more erratic weather patterns and more severe storms in the six years she and her partners have owned their farm. Bumbleroot has endured drought and hail storms, high winds and intense rain events. Because of this, Melissa clearly sees the need for more state and federal action to help farm businesses weather the impacts of climate change and incentivize farmers to use practices that mitigate the impacts for the broader community. This understanding led Melissa to become the farmer representative on the Maine Climate Council (MCC) – a group of diverse stakeholders tasked with establishing strategies to help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and ensure the resiliency of communities, industries, and people across the state. Melissa and Ellen Griswold, Maine Farmland Trust’s Policy and Research Director, are part of the Natural and Working Lands Working Group (NWLWG), a MCC working group charged with developing recommendations related to agriculture, forestry, and natural lands. Amanda Beal, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, is a member of the MCC and one of the NWLWG Co-Chairs.
By participating in the MCC and the NWLWG, Melissa is helping to create bold policies that set new standards for climate action in Maine and the northeast region. From her experience as a farmer, Melissa has three recommendations to state governments seeking to support climate-smart farming:
- "First, it is imperative that we protect natural and working lands, especially those under pressure from development. This recommendation recognizes the capacity of our forested, agricultural and conserved lands to sequester vast amounts of carbon, as well as the significant role these lands play in [Northeast state] economies. Protecting farmland ensures that our communities have local food producers in their midst, which strengthens our local and regional food systems and reduces dependence on food produced thousands of miles away.
Second, providing financial incentives will be critical to the widespread adoption of climate-friendly practices among land owners, farmers, and foresters. Incentives will encourage these parties to act with urgency, and will alleviate some of the risk inherent in investing in a new way of doing things. It is worth re-examining incentives that already exist in order to incorporate natural climate solutions into established frameworks.
- Finally, providing increased technical assistance is an important part of educating farmers about the benefits of implementing natural climate solutions. Service providers are adept at connecting farmers to the science, technology and tools that aid in the adoption of best climate practices. These strategies are critical to building resilience on farms and in our local communities as we face the dire threats of climate change's new needs.”
The Maine Climate Council released “Maine Won’t Wait: A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action” on December 1st.
Photo credit: Matthew Whalen