50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.
Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.
Arkansas Rice Growers implement precise water management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing poly pipe and alternate wetting and drying. Photo credit: Adam Chambers.
Imagine a rice farmer in Arkansas altering his water management techniques to deliver water more efficiently and use fewer days of flooding, allowing for more precise water and nutrient management while maintaining consistent yields. After a decision by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in addition to improving water quality and reducing water use and nutrient input costs, that Arkansas farmer now has the option of selling carbon credits to large regulated emitters in California.
In 2012, California put in place a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most aggressive climate change programs in the world. Last week’s groundbreaking vote by CARB adopted the first crop-based agricultural offset protocol, designed to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice production. Methane and nitrous oxide are potent greenhouse gases emitted through the cultivation and fertilization of rice fields. Read more »
A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy.
An industry that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase forest growth, and create jobs sounds too good to be true. But that is the reality of the emerging wood pellets market in the Southern U.S. That conclusion is supported by independent economic assessments of wood bioenergy, including a recent study that specifically focused on European pellet demand conducted by researchers at Duke and North Carolina State Universities. Those researchers found that increasing demand for wood pellets resulted in more forest area, more forest investment, large greenhouse gas reductions, and little change in forest carbon inventories.
So, why is there concern?
Some critics have recently argued that land used to produce biomass for energy should instead be permanently protected as forests. They say that harvesting biomass from forests reduces forest carbon stocks. Instead, they claim that the best way to increase carbon storage is to reduce demand for renewable products that come from the land. Read more »
Ellie Hohenstein in Michigan with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (USDA photo)
Last week, Secretary Vilsack went to Michigan State University to deliver a major climate address. Among those in attendance was 15 year old Ellie Hohenstein, a freshman at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, VA. She provides this blog concerning her experiences as she accompanied her father to Lansing for the event. Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications
Submitted by Ellie Hohenstein
My father is the Director of the USDA Climate Change Program Office in Washington, D.C. April 23 was “bring your daughter or son to work day” at USDA. I had no idea what to expect when my Dad told me I could accompany him on his business trip to Michigan. I knew I would get to watch a speech from the Secretary of Agriculture, but this was a much bigger event than I expected. Read more »
Jamie Scott participated in a roundtable on climate change and agriculture with USDA Secretary Vilsack in East Lansing, Michigan on April 23rd, 2015. Mr. Scott is the Chairman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and currently serves as the Vice-President of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
Alongside my father Jim, I operate JA Scott Farms. Together we grow approximately 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Kosciusko County, Indiana. One-hundred percent of those acres are planted using a no-till conservation cropping system that incorporates cover crops every winter.
We use this approach to take advantage of the soil health benefits of no-till and cover crops. We have higher yields, richer soil, and improved water holding capacity. I am also encouraged that these practices can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. We have found that these benefits outweigh the added expense of labor and cover crop seeds. Read more »
NRCS staff participated in a cover crop field day in Merced County, California as part of its tour of the state to look at ways farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon on their lands. NRCS photo by Kari Cohen.
Staff from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon visited California recently to meet with state officials and farmers and ranchers to discuss how farms and ranches can store carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially benefit financially by providing greenhouse gas offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program.
Also along for the trip were researchers from Colorado State University, who partnered with NRCS to develop USDA’s greenhouse gas accounting tool called COMET-FARM. The tool enables producers and technical specialists to estimate the beneficial impacts of implementing conservation practices that store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read more »