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Outreach to the Agriculture Community

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Outreach to the agriculture community can help cultivate allies and build support of the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act among farmers with farms of all sizes, agribusiness and consumers.

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Agriculture Sector

The agricultural sector feeds the world.  Climate change poses many challenges to the sector’s function and yield, as extreme weather events can cause catastrophic damages to crops, disrupt growing seasons, damage topsoil—all at a great financial cost to reinsurers who are increasingly faced with billion-dollar payouts[1]  to cover such losses.  Shifting climate patterns also change growing conditions, resulting in changes and threats to types and yields of crops across the country and, in particular, a significant challenge to water basins, where precious groundwater resources, already depleted, are further compromised as the world temperature rise induces increased rates of evaporation/transpiration.  

The sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (10% of net emissions) and, yet, is a sector that can help reduce overall emissions through best practices.  These changes involve energy, water and land management, improved crop selection, and approaches to soil preservation and restoration.  Across the country, farmlands are now producing new, clean energy from wind and solar installations that create economic growth beyond agriculture, adding tens of thousands of clean energy jobs. 

The USDA Census of American Agriculture, in its Farm Typology section, reports that there are 2,100,000 farms in the US.  Of these, 97% are family farms, and 80% of the family farms are small family farms.  Further, 20% of these small family farms have been purchased in the last ten years.

Small or big, private or public, corporate or non-profit, farmer or rancher, producer or supplier, grower or researcher we will include them all and look forward to our work together.

How will a carbon fee affect commodity agriculture?

Commodity farmers are “price takers not price makers”. For that reason the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) makes fossil fuels used on farms, chiefly diesel fuel for tractors and other equipment, exempt from the carbon fee.

Still, a recent paper [1] projects that a carbon fee with the pricing of the EICDA would cause a decrease in net returns in year 1 of 1.0% (corn) to 1.6% (soybeans) to 1.8% (wheat), and a decrease in net returns in year 10 of 6.3% (soybeans) to 8.1% (wheat) to 8.2% (corn). The primary reason for these decreases is due to fertilizer cost increases (fertilizer is energy intensive and uses natural gas as a feedstock).

It’s understandable that farmers would be wary of any policy that could have such impacts.  But the year 10 projections assume no change in farmers’ practices or in the manufacture of fertilizer.

Many farmers use more fertilizer per yield than they have to, as shown by the reductions of 48 lbs/acre using a dynamic N management tool in corn [2].  And the soil health practices of no-till and cover crops saved farmers up to $50/acre on fertilizer [3]. The combination of N management and soil health practices can be a powerful way to reduce nitrogen fertilizer inputs while also being more resilient to droughts and downpours..

Fertilizer manufacturing is rapidly developing means of reducing or eliminating their emissions. The method that has been in commercial use the longest is Carbon Capture and Storage, where the carbon emissions enhance recovery of oil in “depleted” oil fields [4].

The fee starts low so that farmers and fertilizer manufacturers have time to transition. But if that’s not enough, ask what they would need to support this bill.

Sources:

1.       Dumortier, J. and A. Elobeid. “Effects of a carbon tax in the United States on agricultural markets and carbon emissions from land-use change.” Land Use Policy 103:105320, 1-16 (2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2021.105320

2.       Sela, S., H.M. van Es, N. Moebius-Clune, R. Marjerison, J. Melkonian, D. Moebius-Clune, R. Schindelbeck, and S. Gomes. “Adapt-N outperforms grower-selected nitrogen rates in Northeast and Midwestern United States strip trials. Agronomy Journal 108: 1-9 (2016) doi:10.2134/agronj2015.0606  

3.       “Soil Health Research” National Association of Conservation Districts. (2021)  https://www.nacdnet.org/soil-health-research/

4.       Commercial EOR Projects using Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide. MIT Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies Program (2016) https://sequestration.mit.edu/tools/projects/index_eor.html

About the Growing Climate Solutions Act

The Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) is a bipartisan bill that helps farmers, ranchers, and forestry operators get paid by voluntary carbon markets to implement additional soil health practices into their operations. It does this by removing barriers to the use of voluntary carbon markets, so it is market-based mechanism.  These practices can be an important carbon sink if implemented at scale, positively affecting our changing climate.

 The USDA Would

  • Create a “one-stop shop” website with information and resources for farmers, ranchers and foresters that want to monetize their soil health promoting practices by working with voluntary carbon credit markets.
  • Create certification programs which provide transparency, legitimacy, and informal endorsement of 3rd party technical assistance and verification providers (of carbon sequestered).
  • Partner with all stakeholders to remove barriers and difficulties and provide a report to Congress so that further policy action can be considered. Note there is a 1 year comment period provided for Agriculture community input after passage and before implementation methods are finalized.
Length
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Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Agriculture & Climate Change
(2:16)

Reaching out to Farmers
(5:58)

Growing Climate Solutions Act
(13:26)

The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act
(22:34)

Instructor(s)
  • Nancy Jacobson
  • Julie Heath
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (29m 59s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Agriculture & Climate Change
(2:16)

Reaching out to Farmers
(5:58)

Growing Climate Solutions Act
(13:26)

The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act
(22:34)

Instructor(s)
  • Nancy Jacobson
  • Julie Heath
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Category
Training
Topics
Grassroots Outreach