COLUMBUS, Ohio - More than half of Ohio's land is used for agriculture, and there's a new effort to keep those lands resilient to the effects of climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance is promoting tools and incentives that can help farmers tackle the warming climate head-on.
And Jessica D'Ambrosio, agriculture director for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio, said the group wants farmers and the 'ag' industry to become partners in finding solutions.
"And really changing the conversation from, 'You can either have this or that,' to more of that 'and,'" said D'Ambrosio. "So, we can work together on these issues, and we can both have mutually beneficial outcomes."
The alliance is promoting federal policies that focus on soil health, livestock and dairy, and forests.
D'Ambrosio said they're encouraging and supporting farmers and ranchers who transition to climate-smart practices, and offering incentives to increase on-farm renewable energy and reduce energy consumption.
While there is a cost and risk to adopting practices like the use of cover crops, Pipa Elias, The Nature Conservancy's director of agriculture for North America, says it's ultimately a win-win.
"It kind of pays off, in terms of having a viable agriculture economy in this country," said Elias. "And on the farms themselves, a lot of these practices are beneficial over the course of a few years to farmers and ranchers, and actually helping the economics on their farm."
D'Ambrosio added that the variations in weather patterns caused by climate change is already creating risk and uncertainty for agriculture in Ohio.
"In 2019, we had the wettest year on record," said D'Ambrosio. "A lot of crops were not able to be planted, representing a loss of income and a really stressful situation for farmers. And that was followed up by 2020, which ended up being a very dry year, almost a drought year in most of our state."
The alliance is also encouraging a public-private partnership to reduce the greenhouse-gas impact of food waste and loss within the food-supply chain, and increasing federal investments in agriculture, forestry, and food-related research.