How the climate agreement would help farmers to help the environment

How the climate agreement would help farmers to help the environment

How the climate agreement would help farmers to help the environment

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The climate deal reached last week by the Democrats in the Senate could reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by American farmers by expanding programs that help accumulate carbon in the soil, fund climate-focused research and reduce abundant methane emissions from cows.

The bill includes more than $ 20 billion to improve the agricultural sector’s impact on the environment, primarily by expanding existing U.S. Department of Agriculture programs that help farmers transition to better practices. Farmers would be paid to improve the health of their soil, withstand extreme weather conditions and protect their land if the bill was approved.

According to new analyzes, the agreement of about $ 370 billion in climate and energy spending would bring the country closer to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. This is something many scientists believe is important and that the president Joe Biden promised. Senator Joe Manchin, DW. Va., Which has long resisted climate legislation, has approved measures that would benefit electric vehicles, renewable energy and climate-friendly agriculture. Agriculture is responsible for 11% of the country’s global warming emissions.

The funding would expand programs favored by both environmental groups and the agricultural sector, said Ben Thomas, who focuses on agriculture at the Environmental Defense Fund.

“They are volunteer, they are incentive-based, they achieve results in terms of implementing conservation practices on workplaces,” said Thomas. “It’s great to see.”

Thomas said the agricultural sector has historically not aggressively addressed its contribution to climate change, but that hesitation has changed in recent years and more money will accelerate progress. There is a lot of potential, he said.

“It’s worth taking it very, very seriously,” said Thomas.

Cows erupt huge amounts of methane, and agriculture is responsible for more than a third of man-made methane emissions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This is one way that people’s diets, whether they are high in meat or dairy, contribute to the build-up of greenhouse gases. The bill directs funds towards altering what cows eat to reduce those emissions.

On farms, the soil can hold or sequester carbon if it is left undisturbed and covered by a crop. The money from the bill will expand programs that will help farmers transform their soil less, implement climate-friendly crop rotation practices and cover crops that are not intended for harvest but improve soil health.

“Historical funding validates that these practices are important,” said Ranjani Prabhakar, agricultural and climate policy specialist at the Earthjustice environmental group.

Cover crops, for example, are used only by a fraction of farmers. If their use were to triple – from about 5 percent of cultivated land to 15 percent – it could remove the equivalent of 14 megatons of carbon dioxide per year, roughly New Hampshire’s total annual emissions, according to Kevin Karl. , a food and climate researcher at Columbia University.

“The adoption rate is so low,” said Karl. “There is a lot of potential for improvement.”

Federal officials already offer help to farmers with a range of environmental-centric issues, including irrigation and fertilizer use. A program helps fund conservation easements for farmland.

Dan Sheafer works on nitrogen research with the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association and runs a 20-acre farm. He plants cover crops and minimizes soil disturbance, practices that promote soil health and reduce soil erosion. But he said cover crops also have drawbacks, as they require farmers who want an environmental benefit to change their practices.

“There’s just more time to do cover crops,” he said.

The account also includes research money. While it is clear that proper soil management can capture carbon, there is a need to know more about important issues such as how long the sequestered carbon stays in the soil.

Kaiyu Guan, a professor of climate and agriculture at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, said some people believe farmers don’t pay enough attention to climate change.

“I think farmers shouldn’t be blamed, they should actually be incentivized,” Guan said. “Not only are they doing this to be part of the solution to help the climate, they are doing it to help their land.”

The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all AP environmental coverage, visit

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