Since the 1980s, as rising seas and storm surges started pushing saltwater through the banks of tidal rivers and ruining their crops, rice farmers in Bangladesh, backed by the government, began shifting to shrimp farming. As Stephen Robert Miller writes in FERN’s latest story, published with The Guardian, “It was a way to adapt, and for a while it worked. Commercial shrimp, known as ‘white gold,’ has become one of the country’s most valuable export commodities.” (No paywall)
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.
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.
At the same time farm-state lawmakers are trying to add $2 billion to $3 billion a year to USDA conservation programs, a coalition of farmers and ag groups says the price tag for climate mitigation on the farm should be much higher —$100 per acre or $40 billion a year when fully implemented. No paywall
The chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee called on Thursday for a $50 billion increase in funding for the USDA's stewardship programs to combat climate change on farms and ranches. And a USDA report said forests could absorb an even larger share of U.S. carbon emissions than the current 14 percent through a combination of tree planting and prudent management.
Robert Bonnie, named USDA climate adviser on the same day President Biden took office, will soon be in charge of all farm support programs, from land stewardship to farm subsidies and crop insurance, if confirmed by the Senate. Biden nominated Bonnie for undersecretary for farm production and conservation, arguably the highest-profile sub-cabinet post at USDA, on Friday.
Five farm-state Republicans unveiled a package of climate bills that in one instance would allow private-sector donors to USDA conservation accounts to specify where the money would be spent and put "a name or a brand" on a project. Another of the bills would allow landscape-scale forest management projects of up to 75,000 acres — bigger than the District of Columbia — to reduce wildfire risk through forest thinning, controlled burns, salvaging dead or endangered trees, and creation of "fuel breaks" up to one-half mile wide.
Most of the increased spending proposed by President Biden for USDA's so-called discretionary accounts would go to three things: Rural electricity, WIC and agricultural research. If approved by Congress, the money would accelerate the shift to cleaner electricity, help low-income families put food on the table and, as part of climate mitigation, find ways to verify carbon sequestration and greenhouse-gas reduction on the farm, said the White House.
Farmers and ranchers will have a voice in writing the Biden administration’s plan for alleviating climate change, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday — “a system that is designed by farmers for farmers.” A spokesman said the USDA will reach out to the agricultural sector “in the …