Ag role in climate mitigation: Net-zero emissions

Before signing an executive order on fighting climate change, President Biden said on Wednesday that mitigation efforts would include net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by the agricultural sector, now responsible for 10 percent of U.S. emissions. "We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process," said Biden without suggesting how.

Climate change could accelerate soil erosion

U.S. cropland could lose two inches of soil nationwide by 2035 if climate change delivers its expected droughts and floods, said the Union of Concerned Scientists on Thursday. In a report, the group recommended such steps as crop insurance discounts for farmers who adopt practices that reduce erosion and improve soil health.

Half of the wild relatives of major U.S. crops are endangered

Half of 600 native plants in the United States that are wild relatives of important agricultural crops are endangered in their natural habitats, and "the great majority" of them require conservation action, said a team of researchers.

A novel approach to deforestation may also offer a pandemic safety net

A novel conservation group in western Borneo offers healthcare services and training in sustainable farming to curb illegal logging. In the process, the group may have come up with a blueprint to stop diseases from making the deadly leap between wildlife and people, Brian Barth writes in FERN's latest story produced with Popular Science. (No paywall)

Opinion: How land — and the way we use it — is at the center of the climate crisis

It’s time to bring the conversation about climate down to earth, says Judith Schwartz. How we treat our land matters. This is good news, because by managing our land for enhanced ecological function — for operational carbon, water, nutrient, and energy cycles — we are enhancing climate resilience and mitigation. We can also produce healthier and more abundant crops while relying less on expensive and environmentally counterproductive inputs. In short, we will be working with nature rather than against her. (No paywall)

USDA accepts 1.2 million acres into grasslands program

The USDA accepted nearly 2 out of every 3 acres that were offered this spring for enrollment into the Conservation Reserve grasslands initiative, 1.2 million acres in all, said the Farm Service Agency on Thursday.

High yields, low prices may plant the seed of a larger Conservation Reserve

The 2018 farm law allows an additional 3 million acres into the land-idling Conservation Reserve, partly to offset the low market prices that followed the collapse of the commodity boom earlier this decade. Lawmakers may opt for another expansion of the reserve if farmers face mountains of surplus grain and continued low prices, said two University of Illinois economists.

USDA pilot offers 30-year contract for Conservation Reserve

Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve has paid landowners an annual rent to idle environmentally fragile land under contracts that last for 10 or 15 years. Now a pilot program will offer a 30-year contract in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions.

Conservation Reserve rental rates fall by $8 an acre for new land

The USDA will pay an annual rent of $55 an acre on land entering the Conservation Reserve through the recently completed signup, a drop of $8 an acre from the last time landowners idled large tracts of land in the reserve, said a USDA spokeswoman on Wednesday.

Enrollment drops in Conservation Reserve

The lower rental rates set in the 2018 farm law for the Conservation Reserve may be discouraging enrollment in the program to idle fragile farmland. The USDA said on Thursday that it had accepted for entry 9 of every 10 acres offered in the recently completed "general" signup, for a total of 3.4 million acres — 2 million fewer acres than will leave the reserve this fall.