Agriculture is ready for climate mitigation, says Vilsack

“We can create a whole new suite of revenue streams to protect (farm income) from the vagaries of trade,” said Vilsack.

Tom Vilsack, nominated for agriculture secretary in the Biden administration, said he will rapidly ramp up USDA programs to combat climate change and that he believes farmers will be enthusiastic at the opportunity to make money by sequestering carbon in the soil. “Agriculture writ large is ready for this, much more than before,” said Vilsack on Tuesday during an interview with an Iowa newspaper.

“We can create a whole new suite of revenue streams to protect (farm income) from the vagaries of trade,” said Vilsack, a two-term governor of Iowa before serving as agriculture secretary throughout the Obama years. During the interview with the Storm Lake Times, Vilsack said USDA would create demonstration projects on carbon capture that could be transformed into full-scale programs in the farm bill due in 2023. USDA also could develop scientific standards for sequestration that would be part of the foundation of a cap-and-trade market.

“He believes he will have significant executive authority through the Commodity Credit Crop and the latest COVID relief bill to fund efforts to build resiliency in natural resources and markets,” said the Storm Lake newspaper. Cabinet nominees usually avoid interviews before they are confirmed by the Senate.

The Trump administration used the CCC, nicknamed “USDA’s bank,” to pour more than $46 billion in trade-war and pandemic-relief payments into the agriculture sector since 2018. The coronavirus bill enacted last month earmarked $13 billion for farmers and ranchers.

Biden, who described climate change as an existential threat, has said he wants U.S. agriculture to be first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

American agriculture was a prominent opponent of climate change legislation during President Obama’s tenure.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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