CIESIN Thematic Guides

Farm Policy Options

Formulating farm policy options is essential for mitigating the likely effects of global climate change on agriculture. (The guide section Adaptations to Global Climate Change provides a review of technical options.) Three important issues related to policy options are research and development; implementation of public policies and programs; and implications of policy. The table "Portfolio of Assets to Prepare for Climate Change," excerpted from Preparing U.S. Agriculture for Global Climate Change, provides an overview of policy options (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology 1992).

Research and Development are necessary to engender widespread use of technical options to mitigate the effects of global climate change. For example, reductions in methane emissions from rice cultivation are theoretically possible, but technologies to achieve this require extensive research. Education is also a critical part of the preparation for dealing with climate change. Without an understanding of the nitrogen cycle, for example, grasping the problems caused by nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers can be difficult.

To facilitate the development, dissemination, and utilization of improved technologies, Public Policies and Farm Programs are needed. The development of technical assistance programs is critical for strengthening agricultural extension services in both developed and developing countries. Dissemination and adoption of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as alternative cropping practices and efficient disposal of crop residues, are possible if appropriate policies and programs are implemented.

Implementing policies has associated sociocultural, political, and economic Policy Implications. For example, increasing the cost of fertilizer to decrease the amount used might result in reduction of nitrous oxide emissions--but could also adversely affect crop yields in small-scale and marginal agricultural operations, leading to increased poverty and food insecurity.

In "Policy Responses to Climate Change in Southeast Asia," Toth (1992) lists policy options to mitigate greenhouse warming related to agriculture, forestry, population and health, and energy. Also, the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Information Unit for Climate Change (IUCC) Fact Sheet 201 (1990e) reviews how policymakers are responding to global climate change.