Climate-Smart Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture practices have a leading role in fighting climate change

Climate-smart agriculture is an approach to farming that uses sustainable practices like conservation agriculture, regenerative agriculture, agroecology, and agroforestry. These methods restore soil health, pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, and produce high-quality agricultural products that feed our communities and strengthen our economy.

Wisconsin Agriculture: At a Glance

Agriculture is a defining feature of our culture, economics, and landscapes

  • 30% of Wisconsin’s land is used for agriculture
  • Wisconsin has 64,000 farms covering 14.3 million acres
  • Agriculture contributes $104.8 billion annually to the state economy
  • Wisconsin’s largest source of agricultural revenue comes from dairy products

Read our blog: The critical role of Wisconsin’s agriculture in addressing climate change

Impacts of Climate Change on Wisconsin Farms

  • Wisconsin is on track to experience warmer winters, wetter springs, and increased extreme rainfall events by 2030

  • Plant Hardiness Zones are already changing, shifting what we can grow and where we are able to grow it

  • Waterlogged soils delay planting & harvest

  • Increased nutrient runoff and soil erosion harms water quality

  • Extreme heat decreases milk production, increases water usage  
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones have already changed

Adapted from: United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service. Plant Hardiness Zones Map (1990) and (2012).  

USDA-ARS, in partnership with Oregon State University, will be publishing updated Plant Hardiness Zones Maps in 2023-2024. Stay tuned here for most updated maps! 

WICCI projects warmer winters and increased extreme rainfall events

From: Wisconsin’s changing climate: Impacts and solutions for a warmer climate. 2021. Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. 


Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI) projects changes in the frequency of hot days and heavy rain events, under a medium emissions scenario. The darker the color, the more intense the impact. If emissions exceed “medium” scenario, the projected impacts will be more severe than what is depicted here. 

A closer look at the effects Conventional Agriculture has had on Wisconsin’s environment


For decades, farmers have produced abundant and inexpensive food but at great environmental cost.

Read more about the impacts conventional agriculture has on Wisconsin by clicking the button below:

Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices

How do you transform land overgrown with invasive shrubs and weeds into a shade-dappled pasture perfect for managed grazing? Find out how Butler Grassfed Beef in Spring Green, Wis., created a silvopasture for its cows in a move that benefits farmers, water quality, our climate and our animals.

Click here to learn more!

Wisconsin’s farmers can make a significant difference when it comes to climate change while ensuring their farms are more protected from extreme weather events. Practices that build long-term soil health, like continuous soil cover, perennializing agricultural fields, rotational grazing, agroforestry systems, and improved fertilizer and manure management have the greatest impact on reducing GHG emissions in Wisconsin. In turn, these practices create more resilient, productive farms that will leave a healthier environmental legacy for future generations.

Rows of sudangrass, radish, and other cover crops starting to grow in a wheat stubble

Planting perennial crops

Reducing fertilizer use & improving manure management

Normandy Cow, Cattle under Appel Tree, Normandy

Integrating trees & forage plants into livestock pastures

Benefits of Climate-Smart Agriculture

Holds carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Improves soil health and fertility

Minimizes soil erosion and nutrient runoff

Improves the quality of surrounding bodies of water

Helps buffer farms from severe weather events 


Revitalizes rural economies and rural prosperity


Clean Wisconsin’s Vision for Climate-Smart Agriculture in Wisconsin:  

  • Rapidly increase the use of regenerative practices that improve soil health, reduce water pollution, and keep GHG’s in the ground like reduced tillage, continuous living cover crops, and fertilizer efficiency
  • Transition to integrated livestock systems that reduce liquid manure, get animals out on pasture, and reduce methane emissions through nutritional management
  • Conserve marginal and vulnerable farmland and install grass buffers, wetlands, and prairie strips that help protect the landscape and keep nutrients out of our water
  • Grow new climate-resilient perennial crops, like hazelnuts and Kernza, that require reduced fertilizer inputs and soil disturbance and have few environmental impacts while offering farmers economic security and opportunity  
Windmills on a farm

Be Part of the Solution 

  • Buy local!  Support your local farmers who are farming using regenerative, agroecological practices!  
  • Think global!  Increase demand in market for climate-smart perennial crops crops like kernza, hazelnuts and aronia! 

Clean Wisconsin’s Science-Based Policy Recommendations

Wisconsin needs bold, science-based policy and cohesive collaboration across all sectors to support the transformation of our current, unsustainable agricultural systems into climate-smart food systems, if we are to leave a healthier legacy for our children and future generations. The time for bold action is NOW! 


  • Farmers need technical assistance to understand and install conservation and regenerative practices, and financial resources to make these investments
  • Farmers and land managers that improve water quality, safeguard our climate, and protect our natural resources should be compensated for protecting our environment
  • We must protect valuable natural resources like wetlands, prairies, and forests that are critical to cleaning up our water resources and confronting climate change