A new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative will work to reduce agriculture’s “environmental footprint” by 50 percent by 2050 while at the same time increasing farm production by 40 percent, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced during USDA’s Ag Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 20.
In a statement, USDA listed several benchmarks of the initiative, dubbed the “Ag Innovation Agenda,” including:
- Food Waste: A goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent in the United States by the year 2030.
- Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas: Achieve net reduction of the agricultural sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.
- Water Quality: Reduce nutrient loss by 30 percent nationally by 2050.
- Renewable Energy: Increase biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of 15 percent of transportation fuels in 2030 and 30 percent of transportation fuels by 2050.
According to USDA, the Ag Innovation Agenda will achieve this by:
- Developing a U.S. ag-innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public and private sector research;
- Aligning the work of customer-facing agencies and integrating innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs; and
- Conducting a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. “USDA already closely tracks data on yield, but on the environmental side, there’s some catching up to do,” the department’s announcement noted.
A day before USDA’s announcement, 21 farm and livestock groups announced they had formed a new coalition “to ensure the views of U.S. agriculture are well represented” as government and policymakers form sustainability and climate change plans. Farmers for a Sustainable Future includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, and several commodity and livestock groups.
“We want to be at the table to make sure farmers’ story is told,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “As we move forward on this climate issue, it’s just imperative for agriculture to take its seat at the table and have its voice be part of the decisions and solutions so we can ensure our children and your children enjoy the same success as we have.”
The group does not have specific goals or benchmarks outlined, but its guiding principles call for “policies that support science-based research, voluntary incentive-based conservation programs, investment in infrastructure, and solutions that ensure vibrant rural communities and a healthy planet.”
Sustainability at NGFA Convention: NGFA’s 124th annual convention in Austin, Texas, will feature a “Sustainability in Agriculture” panel on March 10 with Pipa Elias, director of agriculture for North America at the The Nature Conservancy, and Ryan Sirolli, global row crop sustainability director at Cargill Inc. They will discuss current sustainability initiatives and their potential impacts on companies in the grain, feed, processing and export industry.