Stakeholders are moving forward with the management practices needed to prepare North Carolina's agriculture and forestry sectors for changing climatic conditions that could otherwise pose threats to the state's economy.
"As farmers, ranchers and foresters who make their living off the land, we are already witnessing the effects of changing conditions and recognize that more attention to adaptive management planning is required," noted R.C. Hunt and Chip Miller, co-chairs of the North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Work Group (NC-ADAPT), in a joint statement following a summit Tuesday, Aug. 11, that drew more than 60 leaders from around the state.
The NC-ADAPT summit, which took place at the McKimmon Center, brought together farmers, livestock producers, forest managers, business and industry leaders, conservationists, government officials and academics to identify and forge a consensus on the unique adaptation challenges that North Carolina's agriculture and forestry sectors will face going forward.
In sessions throughout the day, summit attendees worked to establish a pathway for constructing an adaptive management plan to improve agriculture and forestry resiliency to maintain the economic viability of the sectors for decades to come. Agriculture and forestry provide 17 percent of the state's Gross Domestic Product, and employ 16 percent of North Carolina's workers.
"Given the tremendous economic contributions that the agriculture and forestry industries provide to the state's economy," Hunt and Miller further noted, "We believe that preparedness planning is needed, and that the state as a whole would benefit from the development of a comprehensive adaptive management strategy."
The summit follows the recent release of a report, Keeping North Carolina's Farms and Forests Vibrant and Resilient: An Adaptive Management Planning Strategy, which is a result of a yearlong exploration of the impacts that increasingly extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions are having on the agricultural and forestry sectors of North Carolina. The report outlines NC-ADAPT's findings and recommendations and offers a roadmap for constructing an adaptive management plan to improve agriculture and forestry resiliency.
"We are not alarmists," Hunt and Miller contend in their joint statement. "We are pragmatists who appreciate the multiple arenas in which adaptive management must be applied in order to maintain vibrant farming and forestry operations—changing climatic conditions being one of many."
Hunt, a Wilson County pork, cattle, fish and crop producer, and Miller, a Mt. Gilead timberlands manager and past president of the North Carolina Forestry Association, explained that other challenges exacerbated by extreme weather and changing climatic conditions include regulatory uncertainty, changing market structures, plant and animal diseases, invasive species, transportation infrastructure stability, land fragmentation/ownership profiles, land use change, water quality and quantity, and energy security and costs, among others.
"Since 1950," the co-chairs pointed out, "producers here have more than doubled their productivity, benefiting from breakthroughs in technology, genetics, mechanization and automation, conservation systems and alternative production practices.
"Looking ahead," they continue, "our sectors will be called upon to do even more by providing food, feed, fiber, forest products, energy and ecosystem services to help sustain a world population that is expected to grow from 7.2 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050. This epic challenge will be further complicated by increasingly erratic weather and climatic variability that scientists predict will occur with greater frequency as we move towards mid-century."
Hunt and Miller acknowledge the "complexities surrounding conversations about climate change," but "the agricultural and forestry leaders that we know understand the magnitude of the challenges that these changing conditions are creating. We are confident that they will rise to the occasion to meet these challenges with sound scientific approaches."
The NC-ADAPT Work Group is an initiative sponsored by Solutions from the Land, a 501 (c) (3) organization focused on land based solutions to global challenges. For additional information, contact Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, at 410-252-7079, or by e-mail at EShea@SfLDialogue.net.