New Bill Aims To Reach Net-Zero Emissions in the U.S. Agriculture Sector

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Modern industrial agriculture produces 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The Agriculture Resistance Act introduced into Congress by Representative Chellie Pingree aims to reduce U.S. GHG emissions from agriculture 50 percent before 2030 and reach net-zero by 2040. We can make agriculture part of the climate solution.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), an organic farmer for over 40 years, recently introduced the Agriculture Resistance Act. The goal of the bill is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. agricultural sector by 50 percent before 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2040.

“The Agriculture Resilience Act is designed as a roadmap to sequester more carbon in the soil and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by supporting farmers where they are,” said Rep. Pingree in a statement. 

“We need to empower farmers with the best available science and provide a range of conservation tools because what works for one farmer in Maine may not work for another in Iowa or Georgia.”

Agriculture production accounts for 24 percent and nine percent of all global and national greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. Agriculture has the “unique ability to be part of the climate solution,” according to Melissa Ho, senior vice president of freshwater and food for the World Wildlife Fund. She characterized the Agriculture Resilience Act as “an important and commendable effort to more comprehensively address the climate crisis through agricultural solutions.”

The six goals of the Agriculture Resistance Act

To reach net-zero emissions, the bill includes six goals. One of those goals is increasing research. The bill would ensure that agriculture research programs prioritize climate change research, increasing funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Climate Hubs. The Regional Climate Hubs consist of 10 regional locations. Established in 2014, the hubs provide farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with tools, management options, and technical support to help with climate change adaptation.

The second goal of the bill is to improve soil health. The bill would create a new soil health grant program for state and tribal governments. Soils can release greenhouse gas emissions, namely nitrogen oxide, which has a warming potential 265 to 298 times that of carbon dioxide. Emissions from soils comprise as much as eight percent of all emissions of nitrogen oxide in the U.S. One study found that organic farming systems can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector.

Protecting existing farmland is the third goal of the bill. It would increase funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program, which helps landowners and land trusts protect and restore wetlands, grasslands, and farms and ranches through conservation easements. It helps state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Through the program, more than 4.4 million acres of wetlands and agricultural lands have been protected over the last 25 years.

Supporting pasture-based livestock systems is the fourth goal of the bill. To accomplish that goal the bill would do several things:

  • Create a new alternative manure management program supporting livestock methane management strategies.
  • Create a new grant program helping very small meat processors cover costs associated with meeting federal inspection guidelines.
  • Establish a Grasslands 30 pilot program within the Conservation Reserve Program to enroll grassland at risk of conversion.

Renewable energy can be an asset on a farm or ranch. That is why boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives is a goal of the bill. Funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) would increase. Funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) would increase. REAP provides financial assistance to farmers and rural businesses to buy, install, and construct renewable energy systems. It also helps farmers and rural business owners make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities and use renewable technologies that reduce energy use.

Food waste is a big problem. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted in the U.S. Food that ends up in landfills gives off methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 28 times that of carbon dioxide. Date labels on food can be confusing for consumers, causing them to throw out food while it is still edible. The bill would standardize date labels on food to reduce consumer confusion.

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