The MacArthur Foundation awarded “genius” grants this year to A. Park Williams, a hydroclimatologist who is developing a wildfire forecasting model after studying climate change and tree mortality, and Lucy Hutyra, an environmental ecologist whose studies show that conserving urban forest fragments helps mitigate local impacts of climate change.
Fewer of America's large-scale corn and soybean farmers are planting cover crops this year than last, and nobody says they're doing it to lock carbon in the soil, said a Purdue University survey on Tuesday. Cover crops, long promoted as a way to improve soil health, have more recently been promoted as an agricultural practice that mitigates climate change and could be a new source of income.
More than $3 billion in USDA cost-sharing funds will be available to producers and foresters for climate mitigation projects in the fiscal year that begins this Sunday, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday.
Nine out of 10 farmers say they definitely or probably will stick with cover crops after the expiration of financial incentives to add the crops to their operations, said a report based on a survey of 795 farmers nationwide. Half of the participants in the National Cover Crop Survey said they had received some sort of payment for cover crops in 2022.
The new farm bill should encourage rural economic development by making high-speed internet widely available and build on historic investments in carbon sequestration, said a group of center-left House Democrats.
As part of President Biden's goal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade, the USDA will spend $300 million to more accurately measure and verify GHG emissions and carbon sequestration by climate-smart agriculture, said the White House on Wednesday. Climate adviser Ali Zaidi said the project would help "the people on the front lines of the climate crisis to be part of the solution."
The USDA could use its biggest land stewardship programs — the Conservation Reserve, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Stewardship Program — to combat climate change, wrote University of Maryland professor Erik Lichtenberg in a think tank report. But to make the programs as effective as possible, he said, Congress would have to reorient them, a risky move that could cut into their support.
Although global leaders agreed in 2021 to halve forest losses within a decade, 4.1 million hectares (15,830 square miles) of tropical primary forest were lost last year, said the World Resources Institute on Wednesday. “The trend is moving in the wrong direction,” said the environmental group.
In a comprehensive assessment of the potential risks and benefits of expanding seaweed farming, the United Nations Environment Programme called this week for “cautious optimism” and a lot more scientific research. Seaweed aquaculture is growing quickly amid enthusiasm about macroalgae’s potential to do everything from mitigating climate change to feeding the world to replacing petroleum-based fuels and plastics. But the potential risks to the environment and to vulnerable communities are still poorly understood, the report found. (No paywall)
Seaweed farming is being hyped as a major weapon in the fight against climate change — as a way to absorb atmospheric carbon, reduce methane emissions from cattle, provide feedstock for biofuels, and feed the world — no fertilizers, fresh water, or even land required. (No paywall)
Sixteen months after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a project to help farmers develop markets for sustainably produced commodities, the USDA formally put the initiative into operation on Thursday. Some $3.1 billion — three times more than originally planned — would be spent on 141 pilot projects to offer incentives that encourage producers to adopt climate-mitigating practices on working lands. (No paywall)
An Iowa House bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines in the state is effectively dead until the next session, in 2024, after the Senate late last month failed to advance it ahead of a legislative deadline. That leaves the issue for now with the Iowa Utilities Board, which can rule on eminent domain requests.
In Iowa, deep-pocketed corporations are hoping to build carbon dioxide pipelines across hundreds of miles of farmland. But county governments are putting the brakes on development by passing ordinances to protect people in the pipelines' path. In response, Summit Carbon Solutions, the company farthest along in the state's permitting process, is punching back, filing federal lawsuits to overturn the ordinances and forcing counties to spend scarce taxpayer dollars to defend themselves. (No paywall)
Cover crops have gained elite status as a way for farmers to fight climate change. But a closer look at the growing body of research raises questions about their ability to lower agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Cover crops are more popular than previously known, according to a USDA survey. Growers reported using cover crops on 40 percent of their cropland in 2021, suggesting a sizable increase from the 15.4 million acres of cover crops listed in the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
Anne Schwagerl would love to purchase an interseeder, a machine that plants cover crop seeds directly into a field where another crop like soybeans is already growing. But she and her husband, who grow a variety of grains on 400 acres in western Minnesota, can't afford the $80,000 price tag. So she was happy when the state legislature recently approved a cost-share program to help farmers to purchase such equipment.
Rewetting drained coastal evergreen shrub bogs in the Southeast that were once used for farming could make a small but significant contribution to reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, according to a recent study. The bogs, known as pocosins, can absorb and hold extraordinary amounts of CO2 because they contain antimicrobial compounds called phenolics that prevent the waterlogged peat from decaying rapidly, even during times of drought.
Farm-state lawmakers would have the funds to write a climate-focused farm bill if Congress enacts a broad-ranging package that President Biden on Thursday called “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” The package includes $20 billion for voluntary conservation practices on the farm to sequester greenhouse gases in soils, plants, and trees.
More than 350 groups proposed climate-smart pilot projects to help farmers develop a market for sustainably produced commodities, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday. The large-scale projects, with budgets of up to $100 million, would draw on $1 billion in targeted USDA funding.