New Efforts to Promote Sustainable Agriculture

26 October 2015 | The White House News Release

Agricultural producers and their communities across the country are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Increasingly severe floods, drought, wildfire and other factors pose an immediate threat to the lives and livelihoods of our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and land managers. President Obama is committed to working across all sectors to take strong action on climate and ensure food security both domestically and abroad. As we look to Paris, today’s actions demonstrate America’s continued leadership in land management strategies that mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change.

Today, the Administration is announcing new efforts to promote climate-smart agricultural practices across the country and is recognizing leaders who are taking action to make our agricultural supply chain more sustainable. The White House will honor 12 Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture that are implementing practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve environmental conditions and grow local economies. Such actions include promoting soil health, improving nutrient and manure management, protecting sensitive lands, and encouraging renewable energy. In recognition of the importance of sustainable practice, the White House is announcing that it will plant cover crops in the White House Kitchen Garden this week to improve soil quality, reduce erosion and increase soil carbon.

These announcements made today underscore the crucial role that farmers and ranchers play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. The Obama Administration recognizes the track record of leadership and stewardship the agricultural sector has already demonstrated through innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon storage, and generate clean renewable energy. The Administration remains committed to encouraging new voluntary actions to foster resilient economies and food systems alike.

Federal Efforts to Promote Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

  • USDA Provides Funding for More Than 1,100 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced funding for more than 1,100 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to help rural small businesses and agricultural producers reduce energy usage and costs in their operations nationwide. USDA is providing more than $102 million in loan guarantees and $71 million in grants through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Among the projects, nearly $6 million is being awarded for 17 anaerobic digesters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington. In total, the projects are expected to generate enough energy to power more than 83,000 homes for a year and reduce emissions equivalent of eliminating a year’s worth of pollution for more than 131,500 cars.
  • Regional Climate Vulnerability Assessments. USDA formally announced the availability of eight regional climate vulnerability assessments, providing regionally specific information on the effects of climate change for America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The assessments provide land managers and agency partners with an introduction to the regional sensitivities and climate adaptation strategies, include a greenhouse gas emissions profile with mitigation opportunities, and offer an overview of how partner USDA agencies are being affected by a changing climate.

Leading By Example

  • White House Champions of Change. The White House will recognize 12 individuals from across the country today as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. These individuals were recognized by the White House for their exemplary leadership in supporting change in their communities through innovation in agricultural production and education. The Champions being honored include: Anita Adalja – Washington, D.C.; William “Buddy” Allen – Tunica, Mississippi; Keith Berns – Bladen, Nebraska; Larry Cundall – Glendo, Wyoming; Herman “Trey” Hill – Rock Hall, Maryland; Loretta Jaus – Gibbon, Minnesota; Martin Kleinschmit – Hartington, Nebraska; Jennifer “Jiff” Martin – Storrs, Connecticut; Jesus Sanchez – Fresno, California; Erin Fitzgerald Sexson – Rosemont, Illinois; Timothy Smith – Eagle Grove, Iowa; and Donald Tyler – Beech Bluff, Tennessee.
  • Planting Cover Crops in the White House Kitchen Garden. First Lady Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn in 2009 to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of our nation—a conversation that evolved into her Let’s Move! initiative. Each year, a variety of fruits and vegetables are planted in the garden, and the White House kitchen uses the produce in meals for the First Family and guests at the White House. In addition, winter cover crops have been planted every year, and they will soon be planted for this year. Cultivating cover crops leads to healthy soil and healthy crops through protecting the soil, improving soil quality, reducing erosion and runoff, and building up soil carbon. Field studies indicate that increased biomass inputs to the soil can increase soil carbon up to 11% over 20 years.
  • National Farmers Union. In a statement signed by the National Farmers Union Board of Directors, NFU made an independent commitment to promote efforts to address the threat of climate change and encouraged the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future, saying: “climate change jeopardizes food security domestically and abroad, as well as the economic viability of family producers and rural communities…International cooperation is essential to navigating climate change-related threats to food security and rural communities.” In the statement, NFU also lays out its support for practices that avoid greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon by managing land for enhanced soil health, applying fertilizer for maximum utilization and minimal sublimation or runoff, reducing and utilizing methane emissions from livestock operations, exercising additional precaution with sensitive lands, employing climate-smart grazing and pasture practices, retaining woodlands, and utilizing renewable energy on farms and ranches.

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