More Income Opportunities for Farmers

USDA Unveils $300M Greenhouse Gas Measurement, Monitoring Plan

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The Inflation Reduction Act provided USDA with $300 million to improve the measurements of greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration in agriculture. USDA is rolling out a draft proposal for how that will work. (Photo courtesy of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce Wednesday that USDA will spend $300 million to improve measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in climate-smart agriculture and forestry.

The money will come from the Inflation Reduction Act.

On a call to reporters Tuesday, Vilsack said the improved measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification will increase confidence in statistics on carbon sequestration and encourage the private sector to be more involved in these efforts.

Vilsack added the measurement strategy also would help lead to more income opportunities for farmers and ranchers down the line.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided $19.5 billion to boost USDA's suite of conservation programs but tied those efforts to goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture or increase carbon sequestration in the soil. That block of conservation funding has become a political wedge between Democrats in Congress who passed the IRA last year and Republicans who want to shift money to other parts of the farm bill or remove requirements that the IRA money go to greenhouse-gas emission goals.

USDA also used $3.1 billion from the Commodity Credit Corp. last year to fund the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Agriculture, a series of grants to various groups to provide incentives for farmers to sequester carbon or reduce emissions.

The USDA program, part of the Federal Strategy to Advance Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Monitoring for the Agriculture and Forest Sectors, will be released Wednesday as a draft for public comment.

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) stated the coalition is encouraged that several FACA priorities are included in USDA's plan.

"We applaud USDA for taking steps to update and improve the quality of data surrounding the emissions reduction potential of climate-smart practices," FACA stated. "FACA supports science-based evaluation mechanisms for GHG quantification that account for the diversity and breadth of agricultural and forestry production systems. This work is critical to enhancing trust and confidence in the measurement of emissions outcomes that will allow new markets to flourish. Continued stakeholder input is necessary to ensure strong protections for producer privacy, and standards for data governance."

White House Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters in the call Tuesday that the draft document will call on other agencies -- including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- to work with USDA on improving accuracy and reducing uncertainty in greenhouse gas estimates and help further President Biden's goal of achieving a 50% to 52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Agriculture overall is responsible for about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to EPA. But farming and forestry practices also are among the sectors of the economy that can sequester carbon in the soil.

Vilsack and Zaidi are both scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Universal Food Forum hosted by Michigan State University in Washington.

The strategy was prepared by USDA, EPA, the Interior Department, NASA and others on behalf of the Greenhouse Gas Monitoring and Measurement Interagency Working Group, a USDA news release said.

The draft federal strategy presents a federal plan to enhance measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification in agriculture and forestry through five areas. These include improved greenhouse gas and soil carbon monitoring, alignment and enhancement of related research, utilization of advanced models and tools for better estimations, and prompt and accurate collection of conservation data including through better use of remote sensing data.

Vilsack said the initiative will be "a major collaboration" within USDA involving the Agricultural Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Economic Research Service, the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together, Vilsack said, the agencies will "increase accuracy, reduce uncertainty and enhance overall confidence in these estimates. We're data driven, and we seek continuous improvement in our climate-smart agriculture and forestry efforts."

William Hohenstein, director of USDA's Office of Energy and Environmental Policy, within the Office of the Chief Economist, said that the data USDA currently has on climate and carbon sequestration comes from data collected for other purposes and is not necessarily consistent or up to date.

To carry out these tasks, Vilsack said, USDA has identified seven key focus areas that reflect the framework outlined by the federal strategy and are based on substantial input from stakeholders:

- Establish and advance a Soil Carbon Monitoring and Research Network with a perennial biomass component;

- Establish and advance a Greenhouse Gas Research Network;

- Expand data management, infrastructure and capacity;

- Improve models and tools for assessing greenhouse gas outcomes at operational, state, regional, and national scales;

- Improve NRCS conservation practice standards and implementation data to reflect greenhouse gas mitigation opportunities;

- Improve temporal and spatial coverage of national conservation activity data; and

- Strengthen the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Assessment Program of USDA.

USDA has scheduled a webinar with stakeholders and technical experts at 12 p.m. CDT on July 21.

Registration is required for the webinar.…

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

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Jerry Hagstrom