By Ernie Neff
Florida ag producers, scientists, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and others discussed agriculture in the face of climate change in a forum held Monday in Gainesville. The forum was Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: What the Future Holds for Florida. Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), provides an overview of the event.
Payne says Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, wanted to meet agriculture producers interested in climate change. Leading the forum were Lynetta Usher Griner, co-owner and operator of Usher Land & Timber, and Jim Strickland, owner of Strickland Ranch and managing partner of Big Red Cattle Company and Blackbeard’s Ranch.
The forum included two panel discussions. Scientists spoke about climate change’s threat to the world food supply, and Florida agricultural producers talked “about impacts of climate change on their property,” says Payne. “We all agreed that we could do a lot, and we know this because we’re already doing a lot.”
Payne, who moderated the panel discussion by the scientists, says with 1,000 new people moving to Florida daily, “the challenge continues to be, how do we keep land in production agriculture?” He adds, “We need to look at ways to make agriculture more profitable and to reward farmers for the adaptations that they’re going to have to institute.”
There was much discussion at the forum of “ecosystem services,” Payne says. He explains that those are services agriculturists provide beyond producing food and fiber. Ecosystem services include filtering rainfall that flows to the aquifer and providing biodiversity and soil remediation. “It (the list of services agriculture provides) goes on and on,” he says. “Farmers don’t get credit for it … They provide these services and somehow they should be acknowledged and rewarded.”
Payne says the fact that virtually all major Florida commodity groups were represented at the forum “spoke well of the interest of Florida agriculture in trying to adapt to what we see happening … Instead of being blamed for the climate crisis, agriculture is trying to take some leadership in this and control their own destiny to protect their future.”
Payne recommends ag producers get involved with Florida Climate-Smart Agriculture, which is open to all producers who are interested in mitigating the impacts of climate change on their operations. Hear more from Payne in an interview with Citrus Industry Editor Tacy Callies: