How cattle ranchers can tackle climate change

Texas relies on the multi-billion dollar beef industry for its economic success and the conservation of our iconic landscape – the two are not mutually exclusive. Herders have a devotion to the land that sustains their livelihood, as it has for generations before them. This lifelong connection to the land brings pastoralists and environmentalists together to overcome the growing challenges of climate change.

Faced with the impacts of climate change, farmers and the beef industry can be part of the solution. The Texas Department of Agriculture estimates the state generated $ 12.3 billion in beef production in 2017, nearly half of the state’s staple food. While contributing to the economy, ranchers seek solutions to environmental challenges through improved practices promoted by programs, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. Agriculture. We’ve seen first-hand that the best way to effect long-term change is through collaboration. To ensure a resilient future for all Texans, ranchers must take an active role in helping to create a sustainable game plan for the industry.

Well-managed pastures offer key benefits, from absorbing and filtering water, and storing carbon, and providing a home for native Texas plants and wildlife. These exploited lands play an important role in providing environmental benefits and preserving the integrity of large landscapes, but they are also under threat. Texas lost about 2.2 million acres of farmed land to non-agricultural land use from 1997 to 2017. During this period, the conversion rate accelerated significantly from 2012 to 2017, with over 1.2 million acres lost, or over 650 acres per day.

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We need to help ranchers make sustainable practices the norm on Texas working lands. The first steps are to partner with heritage breeding operations to implement innovative practices and to collaborate with large food companies to source sustainable beef products. The aim is to integrate animal production practices that actively restore and regenerate nature. Through cross-sectoral partnerships such as the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, we can give ranchers the tools and support to adopt environmentally friendly regenerative practices while providing products that consumers can buy with pleasure.

New research shows that pastoralists can achieve economic success while reducing their carbon footprint by adopting proven land management and production practices. For example, rotational grazing mimics the behavior of migratory animals that historically foraged in grasslands, stimulating plant growth and incorporating rest for plants to avoid overgrazing. A healthy prairie needs some level of disturbance to be a fully functioning ecosystem. As livestock graze, this stimulates root systems, which store carbon while improving soil health, for the benefit of native plants and wildlife. Integrated field management can improve soil health and fertility, capture carbon, and provide habitat for pollinators by incorporating active livestock grazing on cover crops planted during months when fields would otherwise fallow. Initial data modeling suggests a direct benefit to downstream water quality and carbon sequestration by implementing responsible land management practices such as these.

Conservation and livestock may seem unlikely allies in the fight against climate change, but by giving pastoralists the resources they need to manage their lands and operations sustainably, we can ensure long-term food supply, security. economical and a healthy environment for all Texans. .

Suzanne Scott is the Texas director of Nature Conservancy. Meredith Ellis is a sustainable cattle rancher, managing over 3,000 acres of improved wildlife habitat, native ranges and forages in Rosston.


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