INSTITUTE OF AGRICULTURAL LAW & CLIMATE CHANGE
PURPOSE AND FOCUS OF THE ORGANIZATION
The work of this organization is based on the premise that nation states will be unable to reduce CO2 levels to the extent necessary to avoid additional global warming and the significant climate changes that will result. Those climate changes will reduce the amount of land available for agricultural production and will reduce the water resources available to support agricultural on the land that remains. Some agricultural land currently in production will be lost forever, other land will suffer reduced productivity, and, at least in the short term, some land will benefit from increased productivity. Long term, however, the consequences overall will be adverse.
Loss of agricultural productivity will have a destabilizing effect on societies and the economy. These consequences could be severe.
As agricultural land is lost to climate change and productivity declines, producers and governments will attempt to find new agricultural lands to replace what was lost. They will also attempt to increase yields on the remaining land. They should also act to prohibit the conversion of agricultural land that remains productive to non-agricultural uses.
The conversion of land to agricultural uses, if not properly directed and regulated, will have unintended consequences. Large scale cutting of forests and the plowing up of grasslands will 1) release additional carbon into the atmosphere further exacerbating global warming, 2) increase erosion and the dust storms and water pollution it causes, 3) further impair existing water resources, and 4) potentially change weather patterns. The productivity gains from uncontrolled land conversion may be short lived.
Three examples, one from the 1930s and the others current, illustrate these problems. Conversion of High Plains grasslands in the first two decades of the 20th Century to meet increased global demand for wheat caused the collapse of wheat prices followed by the Dust Bowl. Conservation programs costing billions of dollars have failed to restore fully the productivity of much of this land.
Slash and burn agriculture persists in the Amazon Basin. The clearing of the rainforest contributes to global warming, but the productivity of this new farmland is short lived. The farmers must move on and cut additional areas of the forest.
The third example is California. Throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, developers in the state have rapidly converted land, much of it agricultural, to residential and commercial uses. These uses have competed with agriculture for limited water resources. The current California drought has caused some agricultural land to be idled and exacerbated the competition between urban, rural and conservation water uses.
The work of this organization is also based on a second premise – that world population will continue to grow at least in the near term. As the population grows, so does the number of calories necessary to sustain the population.
Primary Focus Of The Organization
The organization will focus its work on the following:
1) Analysis of existing land use, water and environmental laws in the Unites States that a) restrict or prohibit the conversion of land to agricultural uses, b) restrict or prohibit the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes, or c) encourage the conversion of non-agricultural land to agricultural purposes or agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.
2) Analysis of current and past USDA farm, conservation and crop insurance programs that a) restrict or prohibit the conversion of land to agricultural uses, b) encourage the conversion of such land, or c) promote or subsidize sustainable farming practices.
3) Analysis of factors to be considered in determining whether land should or should not be converted to agricultural uses.
4) Analysis of state and federal water laws that address the allocation of water between agricultural and non-agricultural uses and among agricultural users, including programs intended to promote the conservation of water.
5) Analysis of laws of other countries that may suggest other approaches for the regulation of the conversion of non-agricultural land to agricultural uses and the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes, the promotion of sustainable farming practices, or the allocation of water resources.
6) Development and recommendation of new laws, programs, and policies to regulate or prohibit the conversion of existing agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses.
7) Development and recommendation of new laws, programs, and policies to address decisions on the conversion of land to agricultural uses and the unintended consequences thereof.
8) Development and recommendation of new laws, programs, and policies to address the allocation and conservation of water resources.
9) Dissemination of the above analysis and recommendations through papers, conferences, and courses.
Subjects Not Addressed By The Organization
Except as may be tangentially related to the topics above, the organization does not intend to address laws or issues related to the types of crops to be grown on existing or new agricultural land nor the practices employed to grow such crops. The questions related to the important issue of increasing yields on existing land in the era of climate change will be left to other organizations.
Examples of tangential issues concerning crops and practices that our organization may address would be crop choices and production technologies that increase or fail to reduce soil erosion and crop choices and irrigation technologies that result in greater water use or greater water conservation.