Arizona and American farmers and ranchers operate at the forefront of climate-smart farming and ranching, putting scientific solutions, technology and innovation to work to protect our land, air and water. 

According to the latest research, U.S. agriculture contributes around 10% to overall greenhouse gas emissions by the economic sector. Thanks to farmers’ dedication to conserving natural resources, that share drops to a negative 2% when additional carbon-absorbing practices are factored in. These carbon-absorbing practices continue to increase year after year.

In Arizona, one of the most common climate-smart practices in this desert state is water conservation. From water recycling on the typical dairy up to 10 times to farming practices that can reduce water as much as 10 to 40 percent. 

Specifically, one farm in Arizona installed a modern-day sprinkler system and dramatically reduced its water use. “One of the most significant practices that we have implemented is investing in sprinklers to irrigate the crops,” explained Carrie Mayfield farming with her husband, Gary, in Buckeye. “It helps conserve our water supply.” Their crops include cotton, wheat, barley, vegetables, onion transplants and various other specialty crops.


Here are some specific, On-the-ground Facts about Farming and Ranching’s Conservation Practices


  1. Not only are agriculture’s overall emissions low but farmers and ranchers are also taking active steps to make their footprint even smaller through the application of low- and no-till farming, technology advances such as methane digesters on dairies and much more. 
  2. For example, farmers are converting waste into energy, and they are participating in conservation programs, which preserve green spaces (like grasslands, forests and wetlands) that absorb greenhouse gases. 
  3. More than 140 million acres of U.S. farmland are used for conservation efforts and wildlife habitats—this land area is equal to the states of California and New York combined
  4. Over the last 70 years, U.S. farms have nearly tripled in production while the number of resources used (including land, energy and fertilizer) has remained rather stable and in many cases decreased. 
  5. Compared to 1990, farmers would have needed almost 100 million additional acres to harvest the same amount of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat they produced in 2018. 
  6. Livestock emissions continue to make up less than 4% of overall GHGs by the economic sector.
  7. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers have increased production while decreasing per-unit emissions. 
  8. In the past nearly 30 years: 
    1. Dairy and milk production has increased 48% while per-unit emissions for dairy have declined by almost 26%. 
    2. Beef production has increased 18%, while per-unit emissions have fallen more than 8%. 
    3. Pork production has increased 80%, while per-unit emissions have fallen nearly 20%. 
  9. Farmers aren’t just adopting eco-friendly solutions; they are also growing solutions through clean and renewable energy. 
  10. Homegrown biofuels are playing a significant role in reducing GHGs. According to a study by Harvard and Tufts University and Environmental Health and Engineering, Inc., increased use of biofuels under the RFS has led to a 980 million metric ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2020. 
    1. o That’s equivalent to taking 18 million cars off the road annually. 


One of our climate scientists has an important perspective on agriculture. “I am somewhere between cautiously optimistic and concerned. Looking from the perspective of agriculture, the increasing CO2 will be generally beneficial for agricultural productivity, but there are diminishing returns as concentrations rise above about 800 ppm,” said Bruce A. Kimball, Ph.D., retired Collaborator with U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center USDA-ARS in Maricopa, Arizona. “Warming will be generally beneficial in present-day cool climates, but in warm climates where plants are now often growing at the upper ends of their optimum range, further warming will depress yields. Thus, it appears that our northern tier of states (and Canada and Russia) will benefit, whereas the southern tier of states and low latitude countries will be hurt.”