December 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter
By J. Scott Angle
You know that as a farmer, you’re a steward of the environment you depend on for your livelihood. Maybe you don’t think much about carbon sequestration yet, but the way you farm can make you a climate hero.
Farm Bureau member and former Miami-Dade board member Sandy Stein has been quietly leading the way at his Jungle Nursery in Homestead, where he grows interior foliage. I was glad he received public recognition at the annual meeting in late October.
UF/IFAS nominated Sandy for the commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award in part because he’s an important leader in the movement to have policy makers – and farmers themselves – recognize farms, forests and ranches as sources of climate solutions. Without this leadership and this movement, you can expect more blame for climate change to be heaped on you.
One of the more important alliances between UF/IFAS and Florida producers is the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group, of which Sandy has been an active member. This producer-led discussion has evolved into a movement to incentivize farmers to do more of what helps the planet—sequestering carbon, protecting wildlife, hosting pollinators, filtering water, and preventing floods.
Few of you get paid for any of this. If policy makers and the public want more of it, then we need policies that allow you to “sell” these things just like you sell vegetables, beef, timber, flowers and fish.
Sandy has not only been an important voice in this movement, which UF/IFAS supports by hosting the group meetings and providing technical expertise, but he has been vocal about raising awareness of existing incentives.
Yes, there are some. It’s a disjointed patchwork of cost-share programs, easements and pilot projects among federal, state, regional and local agencies. Stein advocates for a central clearinghouse you could consult to identify the full range of opportunities to do more of what you already do to provide the public goods we call ecosystems services.
Sandy applies beneficial bugs instead of pesticides to his plants, uses controlled release fertilizers and engages in other environmentally friendly practices. He does this without government incentives in pursuit of his own vision of environmental stewardship.
You’ve been taking care of the land for generations, and UF/IFAS has been helping you do it with the science behind reducing inputs, developing Florida-friendly crop varieties, managing nutrients for less runoff and leaching, and maintaining soil health. Now there’s a need for the science of sequestering carbon.
UF/IFAS long ago recognized Sandy’s leadership potential when we accepted him into our Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The Farm Bureau’s recognition of leaders like Sandy is an important signal that you’re part of climate solutions. Sandy is among those leading the way for farmers to protect both profit and planet. The future of farming—and Florida—depends on it.
Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).