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Saturday, March 6, 2021 - 5:02pm

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2021 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement today on passage of the American Rescue Plan Act by the U.S. Senate.

Friday, March 5, 2021 - 10:55am
Vice President Kamala Harris virtually swears-in Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. Credit: USDA

Energy and momentum to address the climate crisis is building under the Biden-Harris Administration. Many parts of the agriculture sector, previously opposed to climate action, have shifted their stance as agricultural soils come into focus as potentially powerful carbon sinks – and source of profit. Legislators, farm groups, advocates, and corporations have been churning out proposals to engage and compensate farmers and ranchers for taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in their soils. Many of these proposals emphasize carbon markets and offsets as a silver bullet solution for farmers’ involvement in climate mitigation. However, the rush to carbon markets may be premature as carbon sequestration is complex and actions taken now could have far-reaching impacts on how we support farmers working to improve the sustainability of their operations and address the climate crisis.

While carbon markets are tempting—they could create new revenue streams for farmers and ranchers hurting after years of low prices without increasing public spending—relying solely on these markets will not provide the support and incentives needed to help farmers transition to a more resilient climate future. Carbon markets should not be a substitute for strong federal programs that bolster the practices and people already in place that have been committed to “doing the work” for years.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (E.O. 14008) emphasizes a multifaceted approach to address the complexity of the climate crisis. Outlined in the Executive Order are:

  • The creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to foster the next generation of conservation and environmental resilience workers;
  • A goal of conserving at least 30 percent of lands and water by 2030; and
  • Instructions to gather direct input from Tribes, farmers and ranchers,
    forest owners, conservation groups, and others on how to best implement and fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Programs that promote climate stewardship.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) praises the Administration’s efforts to include feedback from stakeholders most impacted by USDA programs. Their input will help USDA create climate solutions that are robust, equitable, and that directly serve those working on the ground and guide USDA as they join other agencies to implement an ‘whole of government’ response to the climate crisis. Farmers and ranchers are ready to do their part to address and help reverse the climate crisis by implementing climate stewardship practices and systems, but they will need resources – including programs that pay them for the full range of environmental benefits they provide, research to develop and demonstrate more sustainable production systems, and technical assistance to help them adopt these new systems – if they are to succeed. 

Last fall, NSAC delivered a letter signed by over 2,100 farmers and ranchers from across the country to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The letter urges Congress to make farmers and ranchers central in any major climate change legislation moving forward. After decades of witnessing how climate change has impacted their operations and livelihoods, farmers signed the letter to demonstrate their commitment to adapt to and mitigate climate change through climate-stewardship practices such as cover crops, resource-conserving crop rotations, soil health conservation, grasslands management, and more. To reinforce their commitment, NSAC submitted comments to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, and to USDA on its Agricultural Innovation Agenda emphasizing ways that legislators and USDA can improve upon and expand existing programs to better equip farmers and ranchers in their efforts to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. 

NSAC also shared a set of policy recommendations with the Biden-Harris Transition Team to provide the Administration with opportunities to modify and improve existing programs as they work to create a more equitable and resilient system of agriculture. Embedded in all these recommendations is racial equity as a core tenet in future program design and implementation. This includes recommendations to enhance the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Programs (EQIP), as well as doubling funding for conservation planning and program applications support, expanding technical assistance, and increasing outreach and set asides for farmers and ranchers of color and other historically underserved producers. 

The recommendations are also designed to help USDA leadership harness CSP as the agency’s premier climate program and further align CRP as a climate and water quality program. It contains points on how USDA can better align crop insurance Good Farming Practices to better support conservation and accelerate the adoption of cropping management plans to build soil health. We also recommend the agency create a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Federal Advisory Committee to ensure all USDA conservation programs align in supporting farmer and rancher efforts to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Finally, NSAC also recommends that the agency coordinate research programs, such as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) program, to develop and test methodologies that can quantify and document carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics resulting from soil health and other conservation activities. Increased investments in sustainable agriculture, soil health, and climate mitigation research are critical to ensure that American farmers have the tools they need to become more resilient, productive, and sustainable.

We need to drop the fallacy of a silver bullet solution to the climate crisis. To meet the urgency of the climate crisis, we must take a farmer-focused approach that uplifts the work of those farmers, ranchers, land stewards, and foresters who are already working to mobilize around the climate crisis, prioritize expanding and improving existing conservation programs, and continue to innovative, design, and implement new sustainability practices and technologies. NSAC looks forward to working with legislators, the Biden-Harris Administration, and USDA leadership to expand and improve conservation programs, agricultural research, and rural development programs that are farmer-driven and have a proven track record of success. 

The post The Climate Crisis Needs More Than a Silver Bullet appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 9:32am

The COVID-19 pandemic requires a coordinated approach to combat the virus and its rippling effects. We all have a role to play to help end the pandemic. USDA is doing its part by providing evidence-based research and information, its facilities, personnel, and expertise to communities across the country.

Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 12:00am
Fruit growers are encouraged to attend the Purdue Extension Fruit Management Webinar series sponsored by the Indiana Horticultural Conference and Expo. The series will be held virtually 1-3 p.m. ET Tuesday (March 9), and March 16 and 23.
Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 12:00am
President Biden has recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate accord and also moved forward with a climate plan calling for carbon free electricity by 2035 and net zero emissions by 2050 — policies compatible with and beyond the 2 degrees C mitigation effort called for in the original Paris agreement.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 3:00pm

WASHINGTON, Mar. 3, 2021 — In January 2021, President Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. The plan is driven by science, data, and public health to improve the effectiveness of our nation’s fight against COVID-19 and to restore trust, accountability and a sense of common purpose in our response to the pandemic.

The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century. It is organized around seven goals:

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 1:30pm

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2021 — The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis is bigger than any other we’ve seen in our lifetimes — while the pandemic has forced the U.S. economy into crisis, millions of Americans are struggling with food insecurity, unemployment, and falling behind on housing payments. Hunger has increased throughout the pandemic, with as many as 30 million adults and 12 million children living in a household where they may not always get enough to eat.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 12:00am
Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture will host a free corn and soybean outlook webinar at 12:30 p.m. ET Wednesday (March 10). Registration is available.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 9:14am

I am Brielle Wright, a facilities service technician with APHIS’ Marketing and Regulatory Programs Business Services in Raleigh, North Carolina. Both sides of my families were heavily involved in agriculture. As children we loved being in the garden planting cucumber and cantaloupe. Our great-grandmother, now 103, had persimmon trees, pear trees, pomegranate bushes, and grape vines. We raised pigs, cows, and chickens.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 12:00am
Farmers continue to report strong current economic conditions on their farms, according to the February Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. While the overall reading for the Ag Economy Barometer changed very little compared to January, down 2 points to a reading of 165 in February; the Index of Current Conditions remained near its all-time high at a reading of 200. Meanwhile, the Index of Future Expectations continued a four-month decline, down 20% from its October peak, to a reading of 148.

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