Skip to content

USDA’s Climate Plan Has Farm-Based Renewables in Leading Role

During a speech at Michigan State University, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak laid out a plan, in which agricultural producers will play a major role in helping to address climate change.

Vilsak said this new approach will build on USDA’s Climate Hubs, created last year, and will utilize voluntary, incentive-based conservation, forestry, and energy programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration and expand renewable energy production in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

The USDA expects to reduce net emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by more than 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year by 2025.

The goal of the project is to improve and promote energy efficiencies and will leverage existing programs such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program and the Using the Rural Energy for America Program.

“Addressing climate change is critical for future agricultural and forest health and will require innovation, creativity, and consideration of all potential solutions,” USDA said in a statement. “Liquid renewable fuels – ethanol and biodiesel – are already supplying 10 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs. Great strides have been made to improve the performance of the ethanol and biodiesel industry. The newest and most efficient ethanol plants produce fuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 40 percent, and there are opportunities to improve performance even further.”

But the project doesn’t just focus on biofuels.  Biomass is also a critical component. 

“USDA is promoting a strategy that recognizes forest stocks can reduce emissions by substituting for fossil fuels and energy intensive materials,” the department said. “Doing so will create strong markets for wood materials, raise the value of lands in forests, and encourage investment in forest regrowth and expansion.”

Vilsak applauded those in the agriculture as being leaders in the effort to reduce carbon emissions, saying this was a reason why the U.S. has a lower level of agricultural emissions than the world average. 

“We can build on this success in a way that combats climate change and strengthens the American agriculture economy. Through incentive-based initiatives, we can partner with producers to significantly reduce carbon emissions while improving yields, increasing farm operation’s energy efficiency, and helping farmers and ranchers earn revenue from clean energy production,” Vilsak said.