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.

Senate passes first-ever climate mitigation bill for agriculture

Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow was certain on Thursday that the House would follow the Senate in passing the first-ever climate mitigation bill for agriculture. Under the bill, the USDA would help farmers enter the carbon market, touted as the private enterprise way to earn money while combating climate change.

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)