carbon sequestration

Study: Southeast’s peat bogs have carbon storage superpowers

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.

With Senate pact, climate-focused farm bill becomes possible

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.

Claim: Grazed grasslands trump cover crops on long-term carbon sequestration

In the debate over how to use agricultural lands to sequester carbon and help mitigate climate change, no-till and cover cropping get most of the attention. But studies are starting to show that grazed perennial pastures, where the soil is rarely disturbed and continuously covered, may be the best strategy for locking carbon in the soil long-term, according to experts on a recent Environmental Working Group webinar.

Flood of applications for climate-smart funding

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.

Report: Land use and farming have crucial role to play in avoiding climate catastrophe

A major UN climate report released on Monday lays out a broad array of strategies for limiting emissions and mitigating climate change. While the most critical priority is to quickly phase out the use of fossil fuels, the report outlined many opportunities to help limit climate change by altering how land is managed and food is produced. And, critically, most of these options are “available and ready to deploy,” the authors wrote. (No paywall)

USDA to put $1 billion into climate-smart pilot projects

The USDA will spend $1 billion on climate-smart pilot projects, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Monday, delivering on a pledge made last September to help farmers develop a market for sustainably produced commodities. The demonstration projects could change the shape of U.S. farm policy, but the clock already is ticking toward the 2023 farm bill and funding for climate mitigation is not certain.

Aid ‘natural climate solutions’ with bigger USDA stewardship spending, says report

Congress should substantially increase — as much as double — funding for USDA stewardship programs that encourage climate mitigation and help farmers make money from climate-smart practices, said a Washington think tank on Wednesday.

Hefty subsidy needed for adoption of cover crops

Only 5 percent of U.S. cropland is planted to cover crops amid debate over their financial benefits to farmers. Congress may need to offer a "sizable" subsidy to growers if it wants large-scale adoption of the farming practice, said two university economists.

ADM proposes carbon dioxide pipeline, third in Iowa

Agribusiness giant ADM said on Tuesday it would reduce its carbon footprint by building a 350-mile pipeline to transport carbon dioxide for injection in central Illinois from its ethanol plants in eastern Iowa. It was the third carbon dioxide pipeline proposed for Iowa, the No. 1 corn and ethanol producing state.

As the climate changes, new efforts arise to diversify what’s grown in the Corn Belt

A growing number of farmers, researchers and nonprofits are working to transform the Midwestern corn and soybean belt into a more diverse cropping region, including a new USDA-funded project at Purdue University designed to study how to help growers diversify their farms. (No paywall) 

USDA allows more leeway on cover crops

Four months after it announced a temporary rule change, the USDA said on Wednesday that it would alter crop insurance rules permanently so farmers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops at any time and still be eligible for a full prevented planting payment.

Agriculture can be climate leader with ‘build back’ funding, says Vilsack

The farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."

California studies what a carbon-neutral future means for its lands

In a carbon-neutral future, California’s farmers could plant water-conserving crops enriched by composting, the result of widespread carbon farming. Socially disadvantaged farmers could become more empowered. Farmworkers could be healthier and better paid. An ambitious report from the California Natural Resource Agency proposes major potential changes to the state’s agricultural sector in response to climate change. (No paywall)

Project will measure carbon on idled U.S. cropland

A $10 million project will sample, measure, and monitor the amount of soil carbon in environmentally fragile cropland idled as part of the Conservation Reserve, said the USDA on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the agency said it would harness the reserve to mitigate climate change by paying landowners to implement climate-smart practices.

Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation goals

High prices for corn and soybeans, coupled with the ethanol mandate and generous crop insurance, are spurring farmers in the Great Plains to plow up native grasslands in favor of commodity crops. The loss of these ancient carbon sinks "poses a conundrum for the Biden administration," which wants to cut agriculture's carbon emissions to net zero and conserve 30 percent of the nation's land in a bid to protect biodiversity.(No paywall)

Can rock dust be a climate solution for agriculture?

Agriculture generates nearly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which has spurred scientists to seek ways of reducing farming's contributions to climate change. Now researchers have found that dusting crop fields with pulverized rock such as basalt can supercharge the natural chemical process that sequesters carbon in the soil, according to FERN’s latest story, published with Yale Environment 360. (No paywall)

Carbon credit market needs better standards – report

Several programs exist to pay farmers for storing soil carbon, but a lack of standards has so far held back the burgeoning farm carbon credit sector, says a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The Department of Agriculture should play a role in collecting data and building …

Solar leases more popular than carbon contracts among farmers

The relative handful of farmers who have signed carbon sequestration contracts is half the size of the group that has leased land for solar electricity production, said Purdue University on Tuesday. Solar leases, which may exceed $1,000 an acre annually, are more lucrative than the rates offered for carbon capture.

Land set-aside is part of climate progress, not greenwashing, says Vilsack

The Biden administration is launching a portfolio of projects to reach its goal of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases on the farm, including a new focus on climate mitigation by the Conservation Reserve Program, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. During an Earth Day teleconference, he rejected the suggestion that carbon sequestration in the CRP was a form of greenwashing. (No paywall)

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