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In Committee Hearing, Secretary Perdue, Rep. Pingree Emphasize Soil Sequestration as ‘Win-Win’ to Reduce Nation’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Boost Farmers’ Profits

Washington, March 5, 2020

In a House Agriculture Committee hearing, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) questioned United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue about the USDA’s new Agriculture Innovation Agenda, which sets the goal of increasing U.S. agricultural production by 40 percent while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. Pingree—who recently introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act, a 180-page comprehensive plan to get the nation’s agriculture sector to net-zero ag emissions by 2040—said the USDA’s plan and her bill have a shared goal: increasing carbon capture in the soil. In their exchange, Perdue concurred that carbon sequestration is a “win-win” for farmers and the environment.

An excerpt from the committee hearing is below. A video of Congresswoman Pingree’s questions can be found here:

Pingree: One of the things I’ve tried really hard to do in my bill was to look at how we treat farmers as our partners. All too often in this debate, people try to point the finger and say it's all your fault but the role that agriculture can play in sequestering the soil isn’t very well understood, even with, you know, the environmental sector people often don't understand how important that is and how so many of the practices that we can continue to encourage at the USDA like no-till and cover crops and increasing the organic matter in the soil. So I’m looking forward to a way to move forward on that, to help people understand the role, to engage farmers in sort of what looks best for them. I’ve written 180 pages in a bill on that so it’s very thorough and detailed about what more we could do.

Perdue: Good and we look forward to looking at that, your exactly right though, in the possibility of really a win-win situation where you sequester carbon in the soil and take it out of the air, but also that’s increasing soil health and productivity, so it’s a, it’s really a win-win situation.

Pingree: Absolutely, every farmer we’ve ever met with that we talk to whose taken some of these steps, have seen better water retention, increased yields, all kinds of good things.

Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act would create a new soil health grant program for state and tribal governments, authorize USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that reduce risk, expand the National Agroforestry Center by authorizing three additional regional centers, and explore new ways to reward farmers such as future carbon markets or tax incentives for soil carbon sequestration.

To reach net-zero agricultural emissions within the next 20 years, Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act focuses on six concrete policy areas and offers solutions rooted in science that are farmer-driven. These goals include increasing research, improving soil health, protecting existing farmland, supporting pasture-based livestock systems, boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives, and reducing food waste.

Pingree is an organic farmer and a recognized national policy leader on sustainable food and farming. She is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.   

 

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