Agriculture and Climate Resilience
This section is intended for citizen-planners who want to help their communities plan for the effects of climate change – with a focus on farms and farmland.
Why is agriculture a key part of addressing climate change and building resilient communities?
- Local farms are the basis for local food production. As global food systems come under increasing stress from climate change, local farms and farmland become increasingly vital for the food security of our communities. Local farms also reduce the need to import food from out of state or out of country, thus reducing emissions from transportation.
- Farmland emits significantly less GHG than sprawl. By limiting development on farmland and instead direct development to designated growth areas we reduce future emissions. Conversely, as we lose farmland to sprawl, pressure to adopt high intensity/high emissions farming practices on the remaining farmland will increase to keep up with the demands of a growing population.
- The capacity for farmland to capture vs. emit carbon depends to a large extent on how the land is managed. Adopting regenerative agricultural practices is one of the least costly and most immediate actions that reduce GHG emissions on a meaningful scale. Regenerative agricultural practices also make farming more resilient to the effects of a warming climate.
Agriculture and Climate Resilience in the Comprehensive Plan
By making farm viability and farmland protection an integral part of land use planning, municipalities are better prepared for the effects of climate change. Especially if the Comprehensive Plan and land use ordinances also encourage and enable regenerative farming practices.
GPCOG recommends making the following climate change considerations for the Comprehensive Plan:
- Has the community experienced any climate impacts on agricultural resources to date (examples include insect infestations, crop selection changes, reoccurring storms and flooding issues impacting these areas).
- Has the community assessed its vulnerability to climate change related to such factors as local water demand and availability, the length of growing seasons, excessive precipitation or drought, adequate soils, pests or disease-causing pathogens?
- In agricultural sectors, does the community have sufficient irrigation and /or drainage /stormwater infrastructure capacity to meet water needs of their entire acreage during extended periods of summer drought, or excessive precipitation?
- Has the community developed effective strategies to deal with future/long term impacts of climate on agricultural resources?
Regenerative agricultural practices should be encouraged in land use ordinances in districts zoned for agricultural uses. Managing for soil health can be a requirement in easements, in voluntary schemes or optional ordinances, where a municipality can offer incentives for regenerative land uses.
The Community Resilience Partnership
By enrolling in the Community Resilience Partnership your community can apply for grants to promote and safeguard agriculture as a part of building the resilience of your community. This could involve:
– The development of local land use policies and codes that protect farmland as a resource for climate resilience, and that direct new development to village and downtown areas, for example as part of your community’s comprehensive planning process.
– Programs that promote and incentivize farmland protection and soil health, for example through the development of a Voluntary Municipal Farm Support Program.
– Projects that advance local food production and consumption, for example through connecting local farms with local markets and/or food banks.
There are many ways communities can address climate resilience and this list is only meant to be illustrative of some ways agriculture is a part of building local climate resilience. Each community would determine its own appropriate approach as part of an application for grant funding.
GrowSmart Maine is a Service Provider for the Climate Resilience Partnership and is ready to work with communities interested in enrolling in the partnership or that want to apply for grants.
Municipal Climate Adaptation Guidance Series: Comprehensive Planning (GPCOG)
Community Resiliency Partnership website
Unlock the Secrets of the Soil: Basics and Benefits (USDA)
A Brief Overview of Changes that may help farmers protect their rainfed acres against climate change. (American Farmland Trust)