More than a half century after the first Earth Day, with our planet in worse shape than it’s ever been, the challenge of slowing global warming and the environmental, economic and social devastation underway can sometimes feel like too much — too expensive, too complicated and too politically divisive to overcome. But when we wake up every morning in rural Marion County, Iowa, we aren’t filled with despair. We’re filled with hope in a revolutionary idea: that farmers will help mitigate climate damage that farmers will help mitigate climate damage if we pay them to make their operations more resilient and sustainable. (No paywall)
The government should use USDA conservation programs as the starting point for climate mitigation on the farm and "tread lightly" with unproven ideas like a carbon bank, said the senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Arkansas Sen. John Boozman cautioned that climate-smart practices may be too expensive for some producers to adopt.
Extolled as a defense against erosion and nutrient loss during fallow seasons, cover crops are being planted on a larger portion of U.S. cropland than before, said USDA economists. Plantings expanded 50 percent in a five-year period, but still only 5 percent of cropland is sown with them—and incentive payments are an important factor in adoption of the practice.
Farmers expect to be paid for climate mitigation, and not at the expense of the traditional farm subsidies, said the president of the largest U.S. farm group during a discussion of President Biden's goal of an agriculture sector that achieves net-zero emission of greenhouse gases by 2050. Other ag leaders on the panel organized by USDA agreed there must be a financial payoff for the voluntary, incentive-based practices espoused by the administration to succeed.
Farmers face significant expenses in adopting climate mitigation practices, and the Biden administration is pondering how to "de-risk those investments," possibly through a so-called carbon bank, said USDA climate adviser Robert Bonnie on Thursday. "Can we look at some new authorities to create some new financing mechanisms?"
The Biden administration will work with farmers, ranchers and forest owners "to create new sources of revenue tied to their good climate practices," said agriculture secretary-nominee Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. With USDA's broad authority to aid farmers, he said he could launch carbon sequestration initiatives that soon would become a standard part of the federal farm program. No paywall .
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who last year sponsored legislation to encourage farmer participation in carbon markets, is expected to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee for the second time in a decade now that the Democrats will control the Senate. Stabenow's return to power was aided by the defeat of a fellow committee member, appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, in a runoff election on Tuesday.
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.
Often cited as a way to reduce erosion or improve soil quality, cover crops are also useful in controlling weeds that have developed an herbicide tolerance, said a survey of farmers by the Conservation Technology Information Center on Wednesday.