Tag Archives: soil health

What to know about conservation compliance

By Erin Herbold-Swalwell, Farm Progress

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in his address at the 2021 Commodity Classic, said that work on “climate-smart ag” should begin before the next farm bill. Proposed increases in funding of the Conservation Reserve Program and an increased emphasis on carbon credits and carbon banks, renewable energy, and other environmental matters bring different opportunities for farm families, but also remind us that we need to understand the rules of enrollment in USDA programs. Read more here.

USDA Conservation Programs

The USDA offers voluntary, incentive-based conservation opportunities to landowners through local field offices in nearly every county of the nation. USDA helped landowners develop conservation plans and enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion and create and protect wildlife habitat. USDA support – leveraged with historic outside investments – helped support producer incomes and reward them for their good work.

USDA Resources

Nebraska News

Farmers express interest in possible carbon reduction methods, by Jerry Guenther, Norfolk Daily News

More USDA Resources

Center for Agricultural Profitability

The interdisciplinary Center for Agricultural Profitabilitywhich was approved March 11, 2021, facilitates faculty research, conducts outreach related to agricultural profitability and trains undergraduate and graduate students — all to support informed decision-making in agriculture through applied research and education.

Center for Agricultural Profitability Webinars – Archived & Upcoming

Carbon market farming bill introduced in Congress

By David Murry, High Plains Journal

A bill that, if passed, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to lay the groundwork and set standards for a “carbon farming” market was introduced in Congress April 20. The U.S. Senate Ag Committee planned to take up the Growing Climate Solutions Act April 22 during a committee hearing to coincide with Earth Day.

The bill was originally introduced last June but has since been refined and reworked after input from Republicans. Its title says its purpose is “to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program to reduce barriers to entry for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners in certain private markets, and for other purposes.” Read more here.

Photo Credit: USDA

Additional Recommended Reading

Featured USDA Resource

Northern Plains Climate Hub
The Northern Plains Climate Hub serves Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The Hub delivers science-based knowledge, practical information, management & conservation strategies, and decision tools to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the goal of helping them adapt to weather variability and changing climatic conditions.

More Nebraska Resources

Additional National Legislation: The Agriculture Resilience Act 

Agriculture Resilience Act a Thoughtful, Nuanced Approach to Climate Action, National Farmers Union News Release

“While the window is still open, we must take every possible opportunity to adapt to our changing climate and limit its impact. One key piece of the puzzle is the agriculture sector, which can not only work to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also offset other sectors’ emissions by sequestering carbon in the soil – a fact that the Agriculture Resilience Act recognizes and seeks to put into action. This thoughtful and nuanced bill would strategically further climate initiatives across USDA programs in an effort to provide farmers with the tools, resources, and assistance they need to implement climate-smart practices.” – NFU President Rob Larew

National Farmers Union
National Farmers Union advocates on behalf of nearly 200,000 American farm families and their communities. We envision a world in which farm families and their communities are respected, valued, and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice.

Nebraska Farmers Union
Founded in 1913, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of family farmers and ranchers, and their rural communities. As Nebraska’s second largest family farm and ranch ag organization with over 4,000 family farm and ranch families as members, Nebraska Farmers Union is dedicated to the farm income issues which matter most to rural families. With active members across the state, Farmers Union is one of Nebraska’s oldest and strongest grassroots organizations.

Climate Bill Would Expand USDA Stewardship Program

By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming

The USDA would double the size of the Conservation Reserve, the government’s largest land-idling program, as part of supporting land stewardship on 100 million acres of farmland under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Monday. Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the sponsors, compared the legislation to New Deal programs to help farmers and combat soil loss during the Dust Bowl.

“The Climate Stewardship Act is a critical investment to seriously engage farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as part of the solution to climate change,” said Booker, who filed a version of the bill in 2019. Spanberger, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee on conservation, said she was “committed to finding new ways to both protect the health of our soil and benefit farmers’ bottom lines.” Continue reading here.

The Climate Stewardship Act (PDF)

Sec.108 Rural Energy for America Program

  • Increases funding from $50M to $3 billion per year to provide grants and loan guarantees for tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to expand renewable energy production and make energy efficiency improvements.
  • Gives funding priority to solar projects that include pollinator habitat.
  • Sets aside 5% of the additional funding for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
  • Sets aside 5% of the funding for new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

USDA Agency Launches New Site for Science-Minded Students, USDA News Release

AgLab, a new science-education website operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is now “open for business” to students and educators alike. 

Geared toward K-12 students with an interest in food and science, AgLab offers a variety of content to promote a greater understanding of how agricultural research is helping meet the food, fiber, feed and fuel needs of a growing world population while also safeguarding our environment and natural resources.

Environment America redoubles “100% Renewable” campaign in 13 states

Environment America News Release

“States are America’s trailblazers when it comes to clean energy,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “State leaders who have the courage and ambition to re-power their state with renewable energy are carving out the path that everyone else will soon walk with familiarity. The most effective of those trailblazers act with clarity and urgency to realize the potential of renewable energy that abounds in every corner of our great land. Continue reading here.

About Environment America
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.

MORE ABOUT THE GREEN ACT

What’s in the Green Act?, The National Law Review
The US House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means has reintroduced the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, which aims to extend tax credits for renewable energy and carbon capture projects. If passed, the GREEN Act would build upon and boost the extended tax benefits to renewables that Congress passed in the stimulus package at the end of 2020.

Previously Posted: Building on National Climate Momentum, Lawmakers Re-Introduce GREEN Act With Key Solar Provisions, Solar Energy Industries Association News Release

CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY BUYERS

Amazon tops list of large renewable energy buyers in 2020, Solar Builder

The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), announced the release of its second annual Deal Tracker Top 10, which highlights 2020’s leading large energy buyers, topped by Amazon with the procurement of 3.163 gigawatts (GW).

Previously Posted: America’s Largest Energy Buyers Call on Federal Government to Transition to Zero-Carbon Energy, REBA News Release

Why oil giants are swapping oil rigs for offshore wind farms, The Guardian
The fossil fuel giants need to find new ways to reduce emissions, generate growth and maintain their share price

CLIMATE-ALIGNED INVESTMENT 

Investing In 2021: The Full Realization Of The Energy Transition
Forbes article contributed by CEO of FFI Advisors, a performance- and mission-driven investment manager focused on developing pragmatic climate-aligned strategies.

At FFI Advisors, we focus on developing and managing climate-aligned investment strategies. A variety of institutions, from foundations and university endowments to faith-based institutions, have joined the fossil-free fight, using the power of their $14.5 trillion in assets to effect change. However, two recent events highlight this significant paradigm shift and may be a barometer of more change to come.

REGENERATIVE FARMING

5 cool measurement tools attempting to quantify regenerative agriculture, GreenBiz
Following is a list of five emerging options, focused on two primary concerns, measuring biodiversity on agricultural land and gauging soil health and carbon levels. 

FEATURED QUOTE

“Community solar can help address the inequitable way in which climate justice impacts communities.” – Erica Mackie, Co-founder and CEO of GRID Alternatives

See Community Scale / Utility Scale Solar for local and national news stories and resources. A few of the articles are about programs in which electricity customers have the opportunity to contribute to a solar project, but most are about typical community solar programs and projects. 

Bridging the Food-or-Energy Gap

By Lynn Freehill-Maye, Yes! Magazine

Lexie Hain tucks a chunk of business cards in her back pocket before bounding up to speak to a room of 75 livestock farmers. On a rain-dumping January day, they’ve driven in from around New York and New England. A polite lethargy has set in by the time Hain, the final presenter, stands up, but her talk, “Solar and Sheep: The New Power Couple,” jolts the crowd like a dozen diner-coffee refills. By the end, Hain is slapping backs, handing out cards, and promising to talk farmer to farmer to the dozens lined up. The conference sponsor, Cornell Cooperative Extension, has to boot her out of the ballroom before the hotel’s next scheduled event. Read more here.

YouTube Video: Solar Grazing and the American Solar Grazing Association

Photo Credit: American Solar Grazing Association

Lynn Freehill-Maye writes about sustainability and related topics from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, CityLab, Civil Eats, and Sierra, among other publications.

 ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Wind farms can bring economic benefits, officials say, by Elizabeth A. Elliott, Blair Enterprise Publishing

Nebraska has a nameplate capacity tax that generates $3,518 per megawatt for the total nameplate capacity of a wind energy facility. A 100-megawatt project could generate more than $350,000 for the county. Tangible personal property used directly in the generation of electricity by those facilities is exempt from property tax if the facility has a nameplate capacity of 100 kilowatts or more, according to the BairdHolm website. That revenue has benefitted schools.

Pingree introduces Ag Resilience Act

Hagstrom Report, The Fence Post

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, last week introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act, which she said would “promote farmer-driven climate solutions.” The bill contains provisions to increase agricultural research, improve soil health and protect farmland by increasing funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program and amend the tax code to exclude from gross income the gain from the sale of 1) permanent conservation easements and 2) farm property to beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and young farmers. The bill would also create a new alternative manure management program to support an array of livestock methane management strategies [and more]. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading

Senate energy bill includes investment in solar and energy storage, Solar Power World
After a full year of hearings, business meetings and bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), released the text of their energy innovation package. The American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) will modernize domestic energy laws to ensure the United States remains a global energy leader while also strengthening national security, increasing our international competitiveness and investing in clean energy technologies.

For the full bill text, click here. For a high-level summary, click here. For a section-by-section, click here.

Image: “Capitol Building” by Lubos Houska / Public Domain Pictures