The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend USD 300 million to improve the measurement of carbon emissions in farming and forestry.
The funding comes from a USD 20 billion allocation for climate-smart agriculture in the climate and social policy law Democrats in Congress passed along party lines, and President Joe Biden signed last year.
During a call with reporters previewing the announcement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it establishes standards and reporting networks to give farmers and foresters better data to inform their climate practices.
President Biden has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and agriculture and forestry play a key role in achieving this.
“But to do that, we’ve got to get the science and innovation right,” Vilsack said.
“We must have accurate, reliable measurements of the impact and effect of the changes and the practices we’re embracing.
“We get those from constantly monitoring those practices, ensuring that we report them, and verifying those results. That’s going to allow us to know what works and, frankly, what doesn’t.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 came from agriculture.
According to a USDA statement, the department will establish a soil carbon monitoring and research network, create a research network, expand data management infrastructure, and improve models and other tools for measuring greenhouse gas outcomes.
The agriculture sector already collects data and provides estimates on carbon emissions and sequestration, said Bill Hohenstein, the director of the USDA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Policy.
But existing data collection is done haphazardly, leaving some areas uncovered and others with only out-of-date information.
Vilsack states, “The national networks will allow for sharing high-quality information.”
“This will put a finer point on our ability to collect information and data. It’s going to allow us to coordinate that information better.”
“It will allow us to accumulate more information from various sources, not just what’s happening on the ground.”
More accurate data could make a stronger case for continuing to fund agriculture programs dedicated to climate solutions as lawmakers write a new farm bill this year.
The spending is part of a larger federal strategy on greenhouse gas measurement and monitoring for agriculture and forestry that the Biden administration plans to introduce next week.
The commitment comes at the same time that the Australian Government has committed to a historic “National Statement on Climate Change for Agriculture.”
“This national statement is a shared commitment by Federal, State and Territory Agriculture Ministers to provide leadership and work in partnership with our agriculture sector,” Minister Watt said.
“This statement is a snapshot of where Australia’s ag industry is now and a clear-eyed assessment of future work that needs to be done.”
Wood Central will cover the Biden administration’s strategy for measuring and monitoring agriculture and forestry activity next week.