Ag accounts for 11.2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a USDA’s 2020 estimates. While these estimates are two years old, USDA intends to improve the future measure, monitoring, reporting and verification of ag climate emissions via a $300 million investment announced on Wednesday.
“We have to improve the scientific backbone of our programs. This new investment by USDA in improving data and measurement of greenhouse gas emissions…is unmatched in its scope and potential to increase accuracy, reduce uncertainty and enhance overall confidence in these estimates,” says Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary. “We’re data driven, and we seek continuous improvement in our climate-smart agriculture and forestry efforts.”
With the funds and stakeholder recommendations in tow, USDA says it will:
• Create a soil carbon monitoring and research network
• Establish a GHG network
• Expand data management, infrastructure and capacity
• Improve models and tools for assessing GHG outcomes at state, regional and national levels
• Improve NRCS conservation standards and use data to reflect GHG capture opportunities
• Revamp coverage of conservation activity data
• Strengthen GHG inventory and assessment programs at the USDA
The investment follows the ethanol industry calling out the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for using obsolete data to measure ethanol’s GHG contributions.
“EPA is using outdated analysis from more than a decade ago to measure the carbon intensity of ethanol and other biofuels, despite the Department of Energy having updated data,” says Chris Bliley, Growth Energy’s senior vice president. “This practice limits ethanol markets.”
New legislation, titled the Fuels Parity Act, was introduced in the U.S. House to address the EPA GHG data and market limitations. While this act could help open market doors, the Food and Ag Climate Alliance (FACA)—an 80+ member ag coalition that includes committee members from groups such as Farm Bureau and NASDA—is confident this USDA funding will help pry open market doors as well.
“FACA supports science-based evaluation mechanisms for GHG quantification that account for the diversity and breadth of ag 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,” said FACA in a press release.
The $300 million will be tapped from the $20 billion Inflation Reduction Act that was signed into law in August 2022.