By Kiana Brockel, NFU Intern
On the Climate Column, we have discussed farm practices that can mitigate climate change and make farms more resilient to its effects, as well as government programs that assist farmers in implementing these practices. The support programs are important, but farmers may not be able to adopt many practices with climate benefits if there are not sufficient market opportunities for the resulting agricultural products. Farmers can organize through groups like Farmers Union to enhance and expand access to markets for the products of climate-smart agriculture.
Farmers interested in such endeavors can begin by examining the goals set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in each state. In Alabama, NRCS has designated soil quality as a critical goal. One way to improve soil quality is to diversify crop rotations, and Alabama Cooperative Extension notes that there are many advantages to gain by working canola into the rotation. However, the article also notes that access to elevators that buy canola can be challenging.
If NRCS maintains its commitment to soil quality in Alabama, however, it may be worthwhile for local farmers to consider building the infrastructure to utilize the crop. Canola can be used in poultry feed, and expanding interest in local and niche meat could lead to opportunities in regional or local feed. The USDA Office of Rural Development (RD) offers Rural Business Development Grants that could be used for feasibility studies or business plans that could assess the viability of establishing more canola processing capacity in the state, and a whole suite of technical and financial assistance programs should the market prove viable.
Farmers can come together with farm organizations to go see the process of climate-smart agriculture from implementation of beneficial practices all the way through marketing the resulting products. Stay tuned in future week as we discuss state-by-state conservation goals and opportunities.
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