Obama looks to farmers, foresters to fight climate change

The Obama administration announced a suite of voluntary programs Thursday aimed at getting farmers, ranchers and foresters to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

The measures, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will prevent or sequester more than 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases, the administration said.

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The USDA will provide incentives for some of the measures.

“American farmers and ranchers are leaders when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiency in their operations,” Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE said in a statement.

“We can build on this success in a way that combats climate change and strengthens the American agriculture economy,” he said. “Through incentive-based initiatives, we can partner with producers to significantly reduce carbon emissions while improving yields, increasing farm operation’s energy efficiency, and helping farmers and ranchers earn revenue from clean energy production.”

Vilsack and top Obama adviser Brian Deese traveled to Michigan State University on Thursday to announce the initiative.

It’s part of the White House’s events surrounding Earth Week, which this year includes a heavy focus on public lands, including national forests owned and managed by USDA’s Forest Service.

The USDA’s initiatives fall into 10 categories, including smarter use of nitrogen as a fertilizer, encouraging tree planting in urban areas, using more rotational grazing and growing and retaining privately owned forests.

“This is an innovative and creative effort to look across all of USDA’s programs and put forward voluntary and incentive-based programs that will increase the bottom lines of ranchers and farmers while reducing net greenhouse gas emissions,” Deese said in a statement.

Deese said the actions require no new actions or money from Congress.