U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Mexico this week to address a summit on climate change. Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, called greenhouse gas emissions “one of the greatest threats to the planet.”
During a phone interview with Radio Iowa, Vilsack said farmers can be part of the solution. “I spoke at the Cancun conference and pointed out that in America our farmers and ranchers account for six percent of the emissions, but 14 percent of the carbon that’s sequestered in greenhouse gas emissions that are reduced or eliminated from the atmosphere are a result of farming and ranching,” Vilsack said. “USDA is taking very specific steps to impower farmers and ranchers to take even greater steps in the future.”
The agency’s Natural Resource Conservation Services has set aside $15 million to finance large-scale agricultural projects that test new ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “And then be able to use that information to encourage markets to be developed to provide financial incentives to those farmers and ranchers to follow those practices,” Vilsack said. “And we think that, as was the case with many of our conservation programs — the CRP program, the Conservation Stewardship Program — farmers and ranchers will react to those incentives and that will make it easier for us to adapt to or mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
In addition, the Farm Service Agency will help farmers calculate how much carbon is being eliminated from the atmosphere by the trees planted on their land.