Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Target: Jim Reese, Secretary and Commissioner of Agriculture, Oklahoma

Goal: Provide financial support for farmers who adopt no-till farming.

Farmers in Oklahoma need help. Leaving farm soil intact prior to planting—known as no-till farming—has various benefits, including helping farmers prepare for worsening climate change conditions. Oklahoma, the fourth biggest producer of crops like wheat, hay, and cotton in the country, has seen a 20% increase in no-till farming over the past 20 years. In comparison, about 35% of farmland in the U.S. uses some form of no-till farming as of 2009. However, various barriers discourage farmers from practicing no-till farming, the biggest of which is cost.

Tilling has been a significant part of traditional farming for the past 300 years. With the advent of the plow and the tractor, farmers have been unearthing farm soil to prevent weed growth, loosen the soil for planting, and mix added materials like fertilizer with soil. However, it is known that tilling has contributed to soil erosion, fertilizer runoff, and lost carbon and carbon dioxide. With no-till farming, advantages include reduction of weeds because of crop rotation, less water lost and therefore less erosion, and less carbon dioxide and carbon lost to the air/waterways. Furthermore, no-till farming has been shown to reduce pesticide use in the long run.

Several barriers stop farmers from adopting no-till farming. First, the cost is too high for most, with equipment alone at $160,000, not to mention the need to learn best practices. Farming is usually a knowledge passed down from generation to generation, and most will not easily throw away centuries of tradition for innovation. Farmers are also hesitant to invest the 3-5 years it takes to establish a no-till plan and see tangible benefits. If Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture were to provide incentives or financial support to farmers, many more would convert to the more sustainable practice of no-till farming. Sign the petition below to demand the department’s commissioner to take action.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Reese,

The great state of Oklahoma is one of the biggest providers of crops for the United States and the world, producing important staples like wheat, cotton, soybeans, and corn. A respectable percentage of Oklahoma’s farmers practice no-till farming. This method has proven benefits which include less erosion, less carbon dioxide lost to the air and waterways, less fuel needed for tractors (thus less pollution), and less pesticide use in the long run. No-till helps farmers adapt to climate change conditions in the present and in the future. For example, prolonged droughts are projected throughout the world, including in Oklahoma, and no-till will better prepare them for this reality because no-till keeps soil intact, improving water retention.

While these benefits are significant, farmers face many barriers to adopting no-till. The biggest one stopping them is the cost, which runs up to $160,000 for each farmer. If you can provide them with financial support along with guidance as they convert to no-till, you can help ensure that Oklahoman farmers have a future in the face of climate change. Farming is already being revolutionized; innovation will lead the way, but you must be there to support Oklahoman farmers.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: USDA

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