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How We Can Make “Forests to Farms” Work?

Jerry Adams
Evaluation and Development Institute

Given what we know, why is biochar not already a global multi-billion dollar industry? What has been missing is a workable sequence of steps: Step 1: Form a partnership among US Forest Service and forest managers, farmers, biochar specialists, ARS and universities, NRCS, and local soil and water districts. This has been achieved in Oregon in Umatilla County. Step 2: Develop an affordable plan for large-scale demonstrations of all of the steps necessary for a biochar industry. Include biochar experts to ensure that the biochar is characterized and is appropriate for the soils and crops.  The Umatilla Partnership has submitted such a proposal to NRCS. Step 3: Demonstrate large-scale implementations of the plan. This is the next step. The demonstrations must include support from forestry, such as Stewardship Contracts and subsidies (Code 384 in 2017) for making biochar. This step is already moving forward. Step 4: Farmers need to be given opportunities to try biochar at a cost that is affordable for them. This step has been proposed for funding. The step may also be supported by forest managers buying biochar equipment and making their own biochar. This step can also be supported by NRCS subsidies for soil enhancements, such as “nutrient management.” Step 5: Dissemination of the demonstration needs to be carried out through social media, professional conferences, field days, journals, magazines, news stories, videos, film, radio, TV, and other media outlets to reach forest managers, farmers, conservation organizations, local soil and water districts, NRCS divisions, agriculture departments at colleges and universities, legislators, and political leaders and funders. This step has also been proposed for funding. To move policies forward on “forests to farmland” we also need to work with legislators to create legislation to support “forests to farms” solutions.

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