Where do you stand on the issue of climate change? The issue has been at the forefront of discussions for several years, and was initially met with great doubt by much of agriculture. Are you part of that contingent, or are you someone who strongly believes the climate is changing, or are you still open to being convinced one way or the other? USDA on June 3 announced a new departmental regulation on “climate change adaptation,” and then announced a series of grants designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half the country, which are being blamed for contributing to climate change.
The USDA’s new departmental regulation was issued by the Secretary of Agriculture to “assist USDA in identifying how climate change is likely to affect its ability to achieve mission, operations, policy, and program objectives.” The policy preamble adds, “The effects of climate change are complex and far-reaching, and while the scope, severity, and pace of future climate change impacts are difficult to predict, it is clear that potential changes could have important impacts on the ability of USDA to fulfill its core mission.” The regulation will dovetail with USDA’s strategic plan along with the work by two other organizations. It is designed to:
• identify how climate change is likely to affect its ability to achieve USDA mission, operations, and policy and program objectives;
• analyze Departmental vulnerabilities to climate change;
• consider potential climate change impacts when undertaking long-term planning exercises, setting priorities for scientific research and investigations, and making decisions affecting agency resources, programs, and operations;
• prioritize actions; and
• develop and maintain an adaptation plan for managing the challenges and taking advantage of any opportunities afforded by climate change.
Following the announcement of the new policy, the USDA announced that it was granting $7.4 million to fund 9 large greenhouse gas mitigation programs in 24 states through the Conservation Innovation Grants administered by NRCS, and an additional $10 million for the EQIP program to implement practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The programs will be applied in 24 states, some of them to Cornbelt states. Those include:
Bringing Greenhouse Gas Benefits to Market: Nutrient Management for Nitrous Oxide Reductions (Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma) – $400,000 to the Delta Institute and its partners to create a system that allows producers to earn greenhouse gas credits for their nutrient management and conservation practices on at least 60,000 acres.
Dairy Farm Stewardship Toolkit (California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin) – $1.102 million to the Dairy Science Institute, Inc. to work with dairy farmers across 12 states to develop a decision support tool that helps those farmers enhance their conservation efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
Ducks Unlimited Avoided Grassland Conversion Carbon Project (North Dakota, South Dakota) – $161,000 to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. to develop tools for grassland producers to help them monetize the carbon storage benefit of retaining rangeland that may otherwise be converted to cropland on 10,000 acres in North Dakota and 15,000 acres in South Dakota.
Piloting Innovative Beef and Dairy Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Strategies in U.S. Feedlots and Dairies (Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin) – $1.056 million to Unison Resource Co. to pilot test methodologies that qualify carbon offsets and that stimulate feed use efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, monetize carbon credits, and enhance economic viability in the beef and dairy industries.
Smart Nitrogen Application Program Demonstration Program Project (Iowa, Illinois) – $1.429 million with The Fertilizer Institute to develop a framework for delivering marketable carbon credits associated with Nitrous Oxide emission reduction when producers implement nutrient stewardship management practices on approximately 50,000 acres.
Are these projects relevant to your farm business and your family? Are these projects a waste of money, which could be better applied in other areas of the USDA budget? What is behind this new policy and what is driving this. Your thoughts would be valuable and welcome regardless of your position.
USDA has implemented a new departmental regulation that is designed to incorporate climate change into its strategic planning and the work it is doing with outside agencies. As a result, USDA has issued grants to several organizations that will conduct research in 24 states, many of them Cornbelt states, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, believe to be responsible for climate change. Readers are encouraged to submit their thoughts about the new USDA regulation and the grants.