The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a new effort to provide tools that will help farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of their operations.
The project will bring together scientific experts from across USDA, other Federal agencies, and U.S. research institutions in order to develop consistent metrics for estimating changes in GHG emissions and carbon sequestration for farm, ranch and forest operations.
The goal is that the new tools will provide a comprehensive, transparent approach to calculating changes in GHG emissions across all management activities within a farm, ranch or forest operation.
The guidance will include ways to estimate the GHG benefit of new technologies, such as methane digesters and nitrification inhibitors (which help fertilizer stay within the root zone).
USDA has been a leader in conducting regional and national GHG inventories; and its scientists have a history of collaborative research with universities to advance the scientific understanding of agriculture's role in helping to mitigate climate change.
The current effort aims to capture the state of the science and to provide user friendly tools and guidance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are interested in quantifying the GHG benefits of management changes within their operation.
The guidance and tools will also be useful to USDA in assessing the ecosystem services benefits of current and future conservation programs and initiatives.
USDA's announcement also tracks provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. Section 2709 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 states that: USDA shall prepare technical guidelines that outline science-based methods to measure carbon benefits from conservation and land management activities.