Climate change presents challenges, but also an opportunity for Maryland’s farmers. Challenges are coming in the form of more frequent and intense extreme events, such as heavy rainfalls and agricultural droughts. At the same time, farmers may begin to be finically rewarded for their conservation, as emerging agricultural carbon programs offer potential payments to farmers for practices that capture and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Achieving resilience to climate change and developing thriving agricultural carbon programs present distinct challenges to Maryland’s agricultural system. Yet, these tasks are also interrelated, where carbon program enrollment can support farmers’ adoption of practices that reduce emissions while promoting climate resilience. However, there are many unknowns regarding what is needed to support these transitions. Farmers are the primary decision-makers, but technical service providers support farmers’ decisions by offering trusted management counseling, application services, and products. These two key agricultural stakeholders are the primary focus of this research project, which is being performed by Matt Houser and Amy Jacobs, both of The Nature Conservancy, in coordination with Lindsay Thompson, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers. The researchers will interview farmers and technical service providers to understand their respective: (1) views and experiences with climate risks, (2) existing use of resilience-management approaches, (3) interest in and support for carbon programs; and finally (4) what barriers limit or discourage them from further engaging with these topics. The interviews will take place across the state of Maryland and offer practical insight into how organizations and policies can better support our state’s agricultural system as it transitions to address climate change.