MELINA WALLING (Associated Press)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that his department will invest $300 million to improve the measurement and reporting of global warming emissions from the nation’s agriculture and forestry sectors.
The investment that comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, a US climate act, will create a research network to monitor soil carbon levels, which is critical to understanding how much greenhouse gases are stored in the ground. It will also enhance the agency’s data management capabilities and improve the research methods used to quantify and analyze greenhouse gases.
Agriculture accounted for about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so the goal of the study will be to improve the system by which farmers can be rewarded for using climate-friendly practices.
“It is important and necessary that we create multiple ways for farmers to generate income,” Vilsack said at a press conference on the Tuesday ahead of the announcement.
To reduce their emissions, farmers can adopt strategies such as no-till or planting catch crops, which have been documented to result in healthier and less erosive soil. This soil may also have the added benefit of storing more carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, causing climate change, although a 2019 report in the scientific journal Nature noted some uncertainty about how much carbon is stored. in soil can reduce emissions.
To get a clearer picture of climate impacts, experts say they need more data. But accurately measuring how much carbon dioxide is stored in a given field can be a technical and time-consuming process. And switching to new methods can be unattractive for some farmers, who often bear the brunt of the cost if they lose crops or are forced to buy new seeds.
Proponents argue that a better understanding of this data could open the door to a more robust carbon market, where farmers can be compensated for their conservation efforts and protected from the financial risks associated with changing their operations.
When a policy helps farmers get compensated for improved soil health and is at the “heart of a national conversation that involves government, academia and industry, that’s a good thing,” says Shalamar Armstrong, assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue University who studies soil science, the email said. .
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