climate-column-grazing-landsBy Tom Somrack, NFU Government Relations Intern

Grazing lands continue to be under pressure by countless factors, including: cropland conversion, wildlife, an increase in forestation, urbanization, and climate change. Grazing and Pasture Lands have been named by Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, as one of the Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture.  USDA has set an aggressive goal to “Establish grazing management plans on an additional 9 million acres for a total of 27 million acres.” Grazing management plans outlined by USDA include programs to ensure the quality of the grasslands and of the foraging livestock.

Together, range and pasture lands exceed more than 500 million acres in the United States. However, grazing lands are at risk due to more extreme weather events and longer, hotter growing seasons with earlier springs. How does this impact your farm and livestock? USDA’s Regional Vulnerability Assessments lists vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies regarding livestock grazing based on each individual region of the United States.

One technique that many farmers have been implementing in the Northern Plains Region of the United States are adaptive grazing management programs, which are matching forage availability with forage demands. These programs, led by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, are designed to monitor the land including, soil health, precipitation levels, and forage production. The program uses this monitoring data to make science-based management changes within and between growing seasons.

Are you a farmer who relies on pastured grazing for your livestock? Have you experienced changes in your pasture lands due to extreme weather patterns and climate change? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and stay connected with NFU for more about climate-smart agriculture.

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