Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Michigan April 23 announced a plan to partner with agricultural producers to address climate change by using voluntary, incentive-based conservation, forestry and energy programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration.
"American farmers and ranchers are leaders when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiency in their operations. That's why U.S. agricultural emissions are lower than the global average," said Vilsack. "We can build on this success in a way that combats climate change and strengthens the American agriculture economy,” said Vilsack, who was joined by Brian Deese, senior advisor to President Obama.
"Taken together, these partnerships will reduce emissions by 120 million metric tons (of CO2 equivalent) or two percent of our economy-wide emissions in 2025 – exactly the collaborative, bold action this moment demands of us," said Deese.
(120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent is equal to taking 25 million cars off the road, or the emissions produced by powering 11 million homes last year.)
The framework consists of building blocks that span a range of technologies and practices, and includes:
Soil Health: Improve soil resilience and increase productivity by promoting conservation tillage and no-till systems, planting cover crops, planting perennial forages, managing organic inputs and compost application, and alleviating compaction. The effort aims to increase the use of no-till systems to cover more than 100 million acres by 2025.
Nitrogen Stewardship: Focus on the right timing, type, placement and quantity of nutrients to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and provide cost savings through efficient application.
Livestock Partnerships: Encourage broader deployment of anaerobic digesters, lagoon covers, composting and solids separators to reduce methane emissions from cattle, dairy, and swine operations, including the installation of 500 new digesters over the next 10 years.
Conservation of Sensitive Lands: Use the Conservation Reserve Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to reduce GHG emissions through riparian buffers, tree planting, and the conservation of wetlands and organic soils. The effort aims to enroll 400,000 acres of lands with high greenhouse gas benefits into the Conservation Reserve Program.
Grazing and Pasture Lands: Support rotational grazing management on an additional 4 million acres, avoiding soil carbon loss through improved management of forage, soils and grazing livestock.
Private Forest Growth and Retention: Through the Forest Legacy Program and the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, protect almost 1 million additional acres of working landscapes.
Stewardship of Federal Forests: Reforest areas damaged by wildfire, insects or disease, and restore forests to increase their resilience to those disturbances. This includes plans to reforest an additional 5,000 acres each year.
Energy Generation and Efficiency: Through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, work with utilities to improve the efficiency of equipment and appliances. Using the Rural Energy for America Program, develop additional renewable energy opportunities. Support the National On-Farm Energy Initiative to improve farm energy efficiency through cost-sharing and energy audits.