U.S. agriculture faces a triple imperative — market, environment, and income — in responding to climate change, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday, his first day on the job. "We don't have a day to waste on this," he told reporters while indicating that the USDA will move at deliberate speed to identify and support successful mitigation practices.
The new era of climate mitigation on the farm would look like a beefed-up version of longstanding USDA conservation programs, augmented by a carbon bank that sets a floor price for carbon sequestration and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, said leaders of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance on Wednesday.
Farmers face significant expenses in adopting climate mitigation practices, and the Biden administration is pondering how to "de-risk those investments," possibly through a so-called carbon bank, said USDA climate adviser Robert Bonnie on Thursday. "Can we look at some new authorities to create some new financing mechanisms?"
Truterra, a subsidiary of farmer-owned Land O'Lakes, launched a carbon credit program on Thursday in which Microsoft, its first buyer, will pay $20 per ton for carbon sequestered in the soil. The program "will help farmers generate and sell carbon credits to private sector buyers," said the company.
The Biden administration will work with farmers, ranchers and forest owners "to create new sources of revenue tied to their good climate practices," said agriculture secretary-nominee Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. With USDA's broad authority to aid farmers, he said he could launch carbon sequestration initiatives that soon would become a standard part of the federal farm program. No paywall .
The incoming chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said she will pursue "voluntary, producer-led" solutions, such as carbon markets, for agriculture's contribution to fighting climate change, with the USDA providing expert advice to producers. Sen. Debbie Stabenow also said the USDA could need additional funding to pay for climate change programs.
Before signing an executive order on fighting climate change, President Biden said on Wednesday that mitigation efforts would include net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by the agricultural sector, now responsible for 10 percent of U.S. emissions. "We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process," said Biden without suggesting how.
Farmers in the largest corn-growing state are increasingly concerned about the potential impact of climate change on their operations but also dubious of carbon markets that would pay them to sequester carbon in the soil, according to the annual Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. Their skepticism stood in contrast to President Biden's goal of creating new sources of revenue for farmers while his administration pushes American agriculture to be the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.
President Biden repeatedly described climate change as an existential threat during the fall campaign. Now that he is in office, his administration will rely on the pocketbook rather than the rule book when it comes to agriculture's contribution to slowing global warming. Voluntary participation by farmers, aided by financial incentives, has been a hallmark of USDA stewardship programs since their earliest days. (No paywall)
Tom Vilsack, nominated for agriculture secretary in the Biden administration, said he will rapidly ramp up USDA programs to combat climate change and that he believes farmers will be enthusiastic at the opportunity to make money by sequestering carbon in the soil. “Agriculture writ large is …