Packard Foundation to U.S. Farms: Put a Sock in the Emissions

Our acres are not so green. 

America's ranches and farms feed us, clothe us, and provide us with old-timey scenery during our road trips. But agriculture in the United States also is a significant contributor to climate change, giving off 7% of the country's greenhouse gases.

The David & Lucile Packard Foundation sees the agriculture sector as an important target in the fight to reduce global warming pollution, and it has granted more than $9 million in recent years to making farming greener in the United States. (See Packard Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.)

Packard's goal is to improve technology that reduces emissions from farms and to link up agriculture efforts to policy and national discussion about climate change. This includes creating policy incentives for the agricultural industry to reduce greenhouse gases.

So far, the foundation's funding has gone to a mix of work to create standards for monitoring emissions and their offsets, build the political will to do so, and use public outreach to connect the two issues.

Packard's work on this subject is part of its membership in the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), a coordinated grantmaking effort of four foundations looking to tackle global warming from the standpoint of worldwide management of forests and agriculture.

While other partners, such as the Ford Foundation and ClimateWorks, have focused on initiatives abroad since the CLUA partnership started in 2010, Packard has devoted its efforts to home on the range. While industrial development is still public enemy number one for greenhouse-gas emissions, agriculture gives off massive amounts of methane from livestock (yes, it's cow flatulence; grow up), nitrous oxide from fertilizer, and carbon stores released from soil.

Packard is funding organizations pursing a few ways to tackle this problem. A big part of its grantmaking has been in support of organizations such as the Environmental Working Group and other environmental alliances to inform the policy debate such that it includes farm emissions. (Read Packard Vice President Chris DeCardy's IP Profile.)

Packard also is supporting the spread of new technology, including through university initiatives. One interesting grantee is promoting the use of charcoal additives to soil that help capture and contain carbon emissions.

Packard also has given large grants toward public and media outreach to connect climate change and agriculture. For example, it gave about $600,000 to Resource Media, a non-profit PR firm to promote environmental issues in agriculture. Environmental funny blog Grist also received $225,000 to link food and agriculture with climate change in its coverage. So next time you hear a serious policy discussion about cow flatulence, it may be thanks to Packard.