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How to Build a Climate-Friendly Food System

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Sustainable Agriculture is Key, New Report Finds

Ben Lilliston, 612-870-3416,

Minneapolis – Sustainable practices in agriculture, combined with the development
of local food systems, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. food
system, finds a new paper by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
The paper, “Identifying our Climate `Foodprint,’” by Jennifer Edwards, Jim Kleinschmit
and Heather Schoonover (, looks at the entire food chain and
identifies opportunities to shift toward a more climate-friendly system. The paper
concludes that U.S. industrial farming systems that depend on massive resource
inputs for crops and livestock are by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gas
emissions throughout the food chain.
“Agriculture is in a special situation when it comes to climate change. It is significant
both as a source of emissions and as a sector already feeling the effects of
global warming,” said Jim Kleinschmit, director of IATP’s Rural Communities program.
“The good news is that by transitioning toward more sustainable practices
on the farm, we can better adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
The paper outlines recommendations for climate-friendly practices in agriculture
production, food processing, food transportation, and food consumption and disposal,
• agriculture production: reduce external inputs, especially synthetic and fossil
fuel-based chemicals and energy, minimize on-farm energy requirements and
compost animal manure;
• processing: minimize packaging, increase energy efficient processing facilities;
• transportation: minimize distance transported and create regional distribution
• food consumption: consider low-impact food options, avoid food waste and spoilage,
and keep food waste and scraps out of landfills.
“Many farmers, food companies and consumers are already implementing climatefriendly
practices,” said Kleinschmit. “Now we need smarter public policy to make
the larger systemic changes we need.”
Policy discussions are currently taking place at the local, national and international
levels to address climate change. Many U.S. cities, states and regions have put
forth strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Congress is debating
climate legislation this year, and President Obama has expressed his commitment
to a climate plan. And in December, governments from around the world
will meet in Copenhagen to discuss a global agreement on climate change.
IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair
and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.

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