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.

Grassland enrollment adds 2.5 million acres to Conservation Reserve

The USDA said it accepted offers from landowners to enroll 2.5 million acres under the Grassland option of the Conservation Reserve, double the amount accepted last year. Nearly 45 percent of the new land will enter in two priority zones set by USDA, the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor in the West and the Historical Dust Bowl Region, still at risk of wind erosion, in the central and southern Plains.

Climate programs will be voluntary, incentive-based, says USDA nominee

The USDA's climate mitigation initiatives will be built on a simple rule: "If they don't work for producers and landowners, they're not going to work for the climate," said Robert Bonnie, the Biden nominee to run the USDA's crop subsidy and land stewardship programs, on Thursday. "Making sure we get that right is going to be a high priority."

Do conservation subsidies really battle climate change?

The Conservation Reserve Program, which will pay farmers more than $1.8 billion this year to take land out of crop cultivation, has become a linchpin of the Biden administration's climate mitigation program for agriculture. But critics question just how effective the program is in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture, says FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with The American Prospect.  (No paywall)

National conservation goal: 30 percent of U.S. land and water

The Biden administration announced a 10-year, voluntary and locally led drive to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and coastal waters by 2030, an idea President Biden broached in January. "This is the first national conservation goal we have ever set as a country," Gina McCarthy, the White House climate adviser, said Thursday during a rollout that featured three cabinet secretaries.

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)

Climate bill would expand USDA stewardship programs

The USDA would double the size of the Conservation Reserve, the government’s largest land-idling program, as part of supporting land stewardship on 100 million acres of farmland under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Monday. Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Abigail …

Agriculture must be part of climate change negotiations, says Farm Bureau

Although blamed for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture has a "great track record" through land stewardship and biofuels in mitigating climate change, says Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, in looking ahead to the Biden administration. "We must make sure we are at the table for discussions around climate change." (No paywall)

Biden vows to pay farmers to plant cover crops and put land in conservation

The government will help farmers mitigate climate change by paying them to "put their land in conservation" and plant cover crops, said President-elect Biden, providing some details on his campaign call to offset greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The sector accounts for roughly 10 percent of emissions nationwide.

Trump seeks 31-percent cut in crop insurance

Farmers would pay a far larger share of crop insurance premiums — 52 percent instead of the current 38 percent — under the fiscal 2020 budget proposed by President Trump on Monday. The White House also wants to deny farm program benefits to people with an adjusted gross income above $500,000 a year vs. the current cutoff of $900,000 AGI.