RICHMOND — Farmers are adjusting to many changes in their industry, from price hikes to the effects of climate change. A big change for agribusiness has been to move towards more sustainable production methods.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture represents 11% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the numbers can be attributed to things like methane gas emitted by cows, manure management, rice production, and crop residue burning.
Antonio Tovar, senior policy associate for the National Family Farm Coalition, said members of the group have already taken action. Besides land rotation, Tovar observed that there are many other ways for farmers to be more climate friendly.
“Covering crops is something they’ve been into for a long time,” Tovar pointed out. “I would say probably half, if not more, of our members also produce organically. They do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides as it is not a sustainable practice.
These efforts come at a time when farmers are feeling the effects of climate change. Throughout the summer and early fall, most of the United States was in a moderate drought. According to the US Drought Monitor, parts of Virginia and the East Coast are still suffering from moderate drought.
In recent years, agriculture has also faced the challenge of land prices. According to a report from the US Department of Agriculture, farm prices have been on the rise since 2020, with their current value averaging $3,800 per acre.
Tovar believes that the land should be in the hands of people who want to farm, rather than other corporate farming entities, which he says has led to a problem of devaluing farmers.
“It’s not just a problem in the United States but globally that we haven’t put enough value on farmers,” Tovar said. “The profession of farmers and farm workers has not been valued the way we should value this work. It’s very difficult. These are not easy tasks.
He hopes to make more consumers aware of the food system and the importance of farmers. He wants people to better understand why a more democratic food system is needed, so consumers can rally with them to influence those changes.