The recently released National Climate Assessment makes clear that unless global emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced, the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves, heavy downpours, and coastal flooding in the Northeast U.S. will continue to increase. These changes will damage working farms; bring new diseases, pests, and weeds; disrupt pollinators; result in more drought, and increase crop failure. At the same time, compared to other parts of the U.S., the Northeast is projected to have more water and experience less heat stress, which could translate to economic opportunities if farmers have the tools to adapt.

In recent years, farm-based natural climate solutions have emerged as an important strategy to increase climate change resilience on farms and in our communities, while also improving farm profitability.

Natural climate solutions include farmland protection, healthy soils practices, and other land management practices that increase carbon storage, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and improve water quality. Natural climate solutions can be adopted by farmers with operations of all sizes and production methods and can even contribute to the financial viability of a farm, helping to both increase yields and save money over time.

Recognizing the critical role that farmers using natural climate solutions will play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, states throughout the Northeast are considering adopting policies and programs that incentivize and support these practices. At this stage, it is essential to have robust data to inform and support these initiatives. The Northeast Natural Climate Solutions Initiative of the Maine Climate Table is being led by MFT in collaboration with the University of Maine, Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, American Farmland Trust, and other state and regional partners. The project will analyze the potential regional and state-level benefits of wide-scale adoption of natural climate solutions for improved soil health, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, improved water quality and quantity, increased farmer yields and profits per acre, and enhanced climate change preparedness. This research could inform and support state and regional efforts to incentivize these practices because farmers can and should be an integral part of addressing climate change in our region.

You can support this work to help farmers and Maine communities adapt to climate change through natural climate solutions by becoming a member of MFT!