reduce carbon emissions through agriculture

Fosters a sustainable, resilient environment in which our land, soil, air, water, and biodiversity are conserved, protected, and restored, and through which our food and nutrition needs are met without compromising future generations.



Promote agriculture and food distribution practices that reduce carbon emissions and/or sequester carbon

Background Information

The global food system, from fertilizer manufacture to food storage and packaging, is responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions. Reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint is central to limiting climate change. Toensure food security in a changing climate, farmers across the globe will probably have to switch to cultivating more climate-hardy crops and farming practices. Researchers have found that agricultural production provides the lion’s share of greenhouse-gas emissions from the food system, releasing up to 12,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year — up to 86% of all food-related anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions. Fertilizer manufacture, second, releases up to 575 megatonnes, followed by Refrigeration, at 490 megatonnes. Researchers have found that the whole food system released 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere in 2008, including indirect emissions from deforestation and land-use changes. In high-income countries such as the United Kingdom, post-production — including storage and transport — contributes a large proportion of the food system’s greenhouse-gas emissions, whereas in China, for example, fertilizer manufacture has the biggest role.

Similarly, a handful of states around the country have begun to recognize the importance of carbon farming as an expedient tool to fight climate change. Carbon Farming is “a suite of crops and agricultural practices that sequester carbon in the soil and in perennial vegetation like trees.” Examples of state measures for carbon farming across the country include:

  • The Maryland Healthy Soils Program, requiring the Maryland Department of Agriculture to provide carbon farming incentives including research, education and technical assistance contributing to healthy soils.
  • The Massachusetts “Act to Promote Healthy Soils,” establishing a fund for education and training for those engaged in agriculture that regenerates soil health.
  • The New York Bill Carbon Farming Act, providing $50,000 to study incentives for carbon farming tax credits, grants and other programs.
  • The California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, appropriating $7.5 million to develop and administer incentive and demonstration programs as part of the state’s Healthy Soils Program in order to monitor and demonstrate to California farmers and ranchers that “specific management practices sequester carbon, improve soil health and reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.”
  • Vermont’s S.43 bill, proposing to establish a regenerative soils program whose purposes include increasing the carbon sequestration capability of Vermont soils, reducing the amount of sediment and waste entering the waters of the state, and promoting cost-effective and healthy soil management practices.

The Good Food Agenda