USDA Gives Farmers Incentives to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Impacts

USDA Gives Farmers Incentives to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Impacts

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced that for the first time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will give special consideration to management practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in implementing forest and agriculture conservation programs.

“Farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners can play a unique role in reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy,” Veneman said. “Last year, President Bush requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend ways to help reduce greenhouse gases and to increase carbon storage through targeted incentives for landowners. I am pleased to announce a series of actions we are taking to meet the president’s challenge.”

USDA will consider greenhouse gas management practices when evaluating applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP). Department actions to reduce greenhouse gases and store carbon will include financial incentives, technical assistance, demonstrations, pilot programs, education and capacity building, along with measurements to assess the success of these efforts.

Specifically, USDA will take actions that include recognizing and rewarding practices that reduce greenhouse gases within the EQIP ranking system and promoting carbon sequestration through the FLEP. Vegetative cover that sequesters carbon will be taken into account when land is enrolled in the CRP and USDA also recently announced it will target 500,000 acres of continuous signup enrollment in the CRP toward hardwood tree planting beginning this summer, which is expected to sequester one million metric tons of carbon equivalent by 2012.

The department’s biomass energy initiatives also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by assisting land and small business owners to develop renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. USDA has made available $44 million to expand the economic and environmental promise of biomass and increase energy production and efficiency.