Agriculture Department to invest $300 million to measure greenhouse emissions

Agriculture Department to invest $300 million to measure greenhouse emissions

The Agriculture Department said Wednesday it will set up a monitoring and data collection network to measure greenhouse gas emissions and determine how much carbon can be collected using certain farming practices.

The network, using $300 million in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, will help measure the results of so-called climate-smart or regenerative agriculture practices, a cornerstone of the department’s approach to addressing a warming planet. The research and data collected will also be critical to measuring progress on President Biden’s goal of halving greenhouse emissions by the end of the decade.

“This isn’t just about promoting climate-smart agriculture, nor about promoting proper science,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a news conference Tuesday before the announcement. “It is also about expanding sources of income for small and medium-sized producers.”

The Inflation Reduction Act, a comprehensive climate, tax and health measure that Mr. Biden signed last year, provided nearly $20 billion to boost existing agricultural protection programs, which allow planting cover crops and plowing the land. Used to encourage practices like not doing. The department has also provided billions in additional funding for agricultural projects, which reduce emissions by capturing carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon in the soil.

But skeptics warn that the effectiveness of these farming methods in mitigating climate change is unproven. For example, researchers haven’t determined how much carbon can be stored in soil and for how long.

The $300 million investment seeks to address the scientific uncertainty surrounding these practices. It will set up a network to examine how carbon is sequestered from soils across the country, create another network focused on greenhouse gas emissions, and improve models to better measure agricultural conservation programs.

A spokeswoman said the network would be built over the next eight years, and the Agriculture Department would make the data public after a year of collection.

Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, welcomed the move, saying the investment is “a really important foundation that we should have laid 20 years ago.”

“We’re making a terrible use of the billions of conservation dollars we’re spending because we don’t know enough about which practices reduce emissions,” he said. “This is a huge, existential, planet-threatening problem that the USDA is starting to address.”

Presently the agriculture sector is responsible for 10 percent of nationwide emissions, according to government data. But existing data collection systems have flaws, can be out of date, or don’t provide detailed information on individual farming practices, said William Hohenstein, director of the Agriculture Department’s Office of Energy and Environmental Policy.

The announcement comes as some Republican lawmakers Demanding cancellation of $ 20 billion funding From the Inflation Reduction Act dedicated to agricultural protection.

Mr Vilsack warned that withdrawing such funding would be a “big mistake” because upcoming initiatives, such as the Data Collection Network, could encourage investment or development in some agricultural practices. More accurate measurement of their impacts could create more market opportunities for farmers in the government and private sector, he added. For example, they may take the form of carbon credits or higher prices for conservation amenities.

“We are going to collect a substantial amount of information, which in turn will allow us, in a similar way, to reinforce the credibility of the information provided, which in turn instills more confidence, which in turn allows the markets to develop.” This results in greater adoption and income opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producers, which also helps create jobs in rural locations,” Mr. Vilsack said.

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