As seaweed farming expands, UN report urges more research, ‘cautious optimism’
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)
Is hype outpacing science on seaweed farming?
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)
As climate disasters worsen, researchers push for farmworker safety net
In the last few weeks, academics and labor advocates have released a flurry of studies and surveys with the same urgent finding: Climate disasters are wreaking havoc on the health, safety, and economic stability of farmworkers, and well-funded government programs are the best way to provide workers with relief. (No paywall)
Don’t let climate steer USDA conservation work, say House Republicans
Congress "must remove the climate restrictions" on $20 billion in funding that had been given to the USDA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resiliency, said two senior Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Chairman Glenn Thompson and Indiana Rep. Jim Baird said the money should be available for all land stewardship practices.
Louisiana tribe confronts future after repeated climate disasters
In FERN’s latest story, produced in collaboration with Harvard Pubic Health Magazine, reporter Barry Yeoman describes the challenges faced by a Louisiana tribe in the face of repeated climate disasters and the burden on a young chief trying to chart a path forward. “The 1,100-citizen tribe has …
USDA announces $4.3 billion smorgasbord of ag aid
Farmers and ranchers who suffered losses due to natural disasters ranging from drought to hurricanes last year will receive $3.7 billion in aid in coming months, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The USDA also announced $500 million in additional funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and $103 million to defray marketing costs for organic dairy farmers this year.
With cuts, USDA will ‘do more with less,’ say House Republicans
Split on party lines, a House subcommittee approved a USDA spending bill on Thursday that would rescind $6 billion earmarked for clean energy and farm loan forgiveness and end work on fair play rules in livestock marketing. The bill also would limit Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s access to a $30 billion reserve that is being used to pay for a climate-smart agriculture initiative.
Report: Arizona must deploy a diverse range of strategies to solve water crisis
Arizona’s water crisis is getting worse, and on Wednesday, environmental groups warned that there’s no “silver-bullet” solution that can fix it. In a new report by the Water for Arizona Coalition, analysts urge the state to embrace a diverse range of water conservation and management strategies — and to start investing in them fast. (No paywall)
White House boosts spending on rural electrification
The Biden administration on Tuesday announced more than $11 billion in grants and loan opportunities to expand rural electrification, which it said was the single largest investment in the sector since President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.
Report: Farm policies fuel grasslands destruction, undermine climate and biodiversity goals
The U.S.’s grasslands are critical habitats for pollinators and birds and hold vast amounts of carbon in their soils. But our agricultural policies — particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard and crop insurance subsidies — are incentivizing the rapid destruction of these ecosystems, the World Wide Fund for Nature said in a report published Monday. (No paywall)
Vilsack says innovation key to fighting climate change, food insecurity
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday touted new investments and partnerships to address climate change and food security through agricultural innovation. Speaking at the opening of the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) Summit, he said the initiative has secured more than $13 billion in public and private investments for climate-smart agriculture, reflecting what he called a “global appetite to accelerate innovation.” (No paywall)
EPA issues emergency waiver for summertime sale of E15
For the second year in a row, the EPA said it would waive air pollution rules and permit summertime sale of E15 — gasoline with a 15 percent mix of ethanol — on an emergency basis, even though fuel prices are roughly 57 cents a gallon lower than they were a year ago.
USDA launches $3.1 billion climate-smart initiative
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)
House GOP grants reprieve to biofuel credits in debt bill
In the hours ahead of a roll call on their debt limit bill, House Republican leaders relented on a proposal to eliminate tax credits for biodiesel, renewable diesel, and second-generation biofuels. They proceeded with a repeal of the $1.25-a-gallon credit for sustainable aviation fuel that was created last summer as part of the climate, health, and tax bill.
GOP senators eye climate bill funding as way to fatten farm bill accounts
Farm-state senators will try to move $37 billion into the farm bill that originally was earmarked for a handful of USDA activities, including climate mitigation, in the climate, health and tax law last summer, said a Senate Agriculture Committee senior staffer on Monday.
Carbon pipelines’ fate still uncertain in Iowa
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.
Farm-state lawmakers prod EPA chief on biofuels and WOTUS
The Biden administration is turning a cold shoulder to biofuels and rural America by encouraging the use of electric vehicles, said farm-state Republicans during a complaint-filled House hearing with EPA administrator Michael Regan on Wednesday. Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon pointed to the so-called WOTUS rule on wetlands protections and declared, “Any goodwill the administration has built with farmers and ranchers is gone.”
Stewardship program misguided in Mississippi River basin, says green group
One of USDA's largest land stewardship programs "allocates too little funding to environmentally sensitive lands in one of the most important agricultural areas in the country," said the Environmental Working Group on Wednesday. In a report, the EWG said the cost-sharing Environmental Quality Incentives Program should be reformed to make climate change its primary purpose.
USDA climate funding targeted in debt-limit fight
The House Freedom Caucus called for the elimination of "billions (of dollars) of wasteful climate spending," — a category that would include $20 billion given to USDA conservation programs — as part of an agreement to raise the federal debt limit.