August 2020


EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the latest edition of NACSAA News, a monthly compilation of CSA-related news. “NACSAA in Action” features the latest on the Alliance activities; “Featured News” offers some of the biggest CSA-related stories of the past month; “Other News We Are Reading” is a listing of news stories from other sources we think you will find of interest; and “Partner News and Events.” We hope this newsletter will serve to keep you, your members and other constituencies fully engaged in the growing development of climate-smart agriculture policy, programs and practices. Your feedback is welcome and appreciated. To subscribe, email

NACSAA in Action


NACSAA Webinar Offers Close Look at House Climate Committee Report


In an August 6th webinar, NACSAA took a close look at the recently released majority staff report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC) that offered among its recommendations policy positions supporting agriculture’s role in taking on climate change.


A number of the policy proposals listed in the HSCCC report came from 50 recommendations, sorted into 10 priority workstreams compiled by  NACSAA from submissions offered by alliance members.


Presenting during the webinar were Ray Gaesser, representing Solutions from the Land (SfL); Jeremy Peters, with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD); Brian Jennings, with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE); Pat O’Toole, with the Family Farm Alliance and a board member with Solutions from the Land; Roger Wolf, with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA); NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder; and SfL President Ernie Shea.


ACE’s Jennings said the demand destruction brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is a current priority for the ethanol industry, but the report is largely forward looking about the potential to position farmers and ethanol producers as climate solution providers going forward. He noted that one key win for biofuels was a recommendation in the report for a new national Low Carbon Fuel Standard on top of the existing Renewable Fuel Standard.


O’Toole, a Wyoming rancher, said the relationship between water, biodiversity and farming in the West is a distinct, complex problem that was harder for the Select Committee to fully grasp, though he said there is promise. Noting that climate change is badly exacerbating existing water shortages and unpredictable precipitation events, straining very old, failing Western water infrastructure/storage, O’Toole said any infrastructure legislation coming out of this Congress must address those water needs. He said effective water management requires watershed-level, public-private land management – most habitat is on private lands, while federal forests help capture water in the system.


NACSAA members, O’Toole said, must help policymakers add more perspective to the report to better highlight and address the role agricultural lands can play in water management, necessary infrastructure upgrades and the need for ag water resources to increase production.


ISA’s Wolf told the webinar gathering that NACSAA’s contributions were validated by the report’s recognition of its proposed enabling policies and the potential for agriculture to be a climate solution. Noting that Iowa Soybean’s focus is on soil health, Wolf said the committee staff report recognizes the three pillars of climate smart agriculture – sustainable intensification, resilience building, and techniques to profitably sequester carbon – and that many suggestions in the committee report would enable carbon adaptation and new revenue streams.


He said some of the more specific suggestions on soil health and other items draw on existing or introduced bills (Ag Resiliency Act, Farm Bill, etc.), but that parts of the report needed updating or correction. Wolf also said the report should be used as background to help leaders create policies that scale up practice adoption – ecosystems services markets are one possibility – and include more farmers and other members of the agricultural value chain in the solutions.


Yoder reminded the group that risk management and resources are the ingredients that enable producer’s capacity to build resilience. He shared his encouragement over the report’s claim that it’s time to recognize and value agricultural solutions to climate change and its acknowledgment of the need for economic viability for farmers. Ag practices and partnerships that improve climate, ecosystems services and farmer livelihoods can be pragmatic, profitable and co-beneficial, he said.


Yoder said the next step for the HSCCC majority report is its distribution among authorizing committees, after which parts may reemerge as full-fledged policy proposals. Yoder encouraged NACSAA members to continue to educate and engage policymakers to make sure the ongoing work is productive.


ISA Head Says Disaster Assistance,

Policy Changes Needed in Face of ‘Derecho’

The leader of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), a NACSAA partner organization, says federal disaster assistance for Iowans affected by last week’s historic windstorm is critical to fast-tracking much-needed services and repairs to businesses and families who are suffering.


(Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Assn.)

The storm, known as a “derecho,” brought sustained, straight-line winds exceeding 90 miles per hour across the Corn Belt and Midwest that battered up to 14 million acres of the Iowa corn and soybean crop, devastating farming operations.


The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says up to 43 percent of the state’s corn and soybean crop suffered damage from the storms. Agriculture is a $10 billion industry in the state.


Several cooperatives located in central and east-central Iowa reported storage sites damaged by the derecho. Early estimates indicated more than 57 million bushels of permanently-licensed grain storage and tens of millions of bushels of on-farm storage was seriously damaged or destroyed. The co-ops estimate it will cost more than $300 million to remove, replace or repair the damaged grain storage bins.


ISA President Tim Bardole said that in addition to disaster relief, the Trump Administration must also act with the same urgency on key ag policy to restore economic prosperity to farm families decimated by trade wars and stagnant biofuels demand.


“Federal disaster assistance will get us back on our feet in the aftermath of this storm, but we’re still standing on shaky ground economically,” Bardole said. “Farms and rural communities need a long-term fix to what’s ailing them and its needed sooner rather than later.”


ISA’s call for action on key ag policy provisions coincided President Trump’s visit to eastern Iowa, an area that was among those hard-hit by the Aug. 10 derecho.


The USDA estimates farmland in 57 Iowa counties was in the path of the storm, including 5.6 million acres of soybeans. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reports 36 counties in Iowa were hardest hit by the derecho, including 2.5 million acres of soybeans.


The derecho’s timing was just as devastating as its impact. The loss of key export markets, gutting of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) refinery exemptions by the EPA and economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 have combined to stretch rural Iowa to its limit, says Bardole, whose soybean, corn and pig farm took a direct hit by the Aug. 10 storm.


“Everyone connected to farming – and that’s a good chunk of Iowa – has been struggling under the weight of an economic recession that began impacting farmers like me starting seven or eight years ago,” he adds. “The situation continues to worsen to the point where some farm families won’t be around to turn the corner, should one get here.”


Featured News


Pivotal Research Details Practices,

Technologies Key to Sustainable Farming


Argonne National Laboratory researchers say they can quantify reduced emissions by farms changing their practices and adopting novel technologies.


The scientists at the DOE research facility confirm that by using sustainable practices, corn farmers could substantially reduce their carbon footprint and become a vital partner to the biofuel industry in the sector’s efforts to produce the lowest carbon fuels possible.


“This work is unique since we provide a complete quantification of carbon intensity (CI) for the cradle-to-farm-gate activities by conducting scenario-based analysis for selected farming practices that uses regionalized life cycle inventory data and a spatially explicit soil organic carbon modeling tool,” said Xinyu Liu, postdoctoral appointee who wrote about the pivotal research recently published in Environmental Research Letters.


A recent study by researchers in the Energy Systems division at the DOE laboratory in Illinois quantified how much farms might reduce emissions by changing their practices and adopting novel technologies. Liu collaborated with Hoyoung Kwon, principal environmental scientist, and Michael Wang, manager of systems assessments, all of Argonne; and Daniel Northrup, a former contractor to DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), now with Benson Hill, a crop improvement company in St. Louis.


“This work is unique since we have quantified how the carbon intensity (CI) of corn feedstock would change with a wide range of farming practices and different farming regions. Besides the GHG emissions from manufacturing and applying farming inputs, we have also considered the impacts from soil organic carbon,” said Liu.


The research focused on the corn belt of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin and showed how different farming practices affect feedstock CI. Sustainable farming professionals could implement lower CI practices, such as adopting conservation tillage, reducing nitrogen fertilizer use, and implementing cover crops, to reduce their carbon footprint, which could improve farm efficiency and help the environment.


The Argonne team’s research has historically focused on the CI of biofuels, which is determined via the life-cycle analysis technique to account for the energy/material uses and emissions as feedstock is produced and converted to fuel. The technique is used by California Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program to calculate biofuel CI. Farms that reduce biofuel CI can generate LCFS credit, which has monetary value for biofuel producers and potentially for farmers supplying the lower carbon feedstocks. Biofuel producers can improve their overall CI score by rewarding feedstocks with lower CI, thereby further reducing the total CI of biofuels.


Currently, LCFS allows applications from individual biofuel conversion facilities, which resulted in significant investment and innovation in production processes to reduce CI. However, the board scores the CI for feedstocks based on a national average, regardless of the significant field-level variations in CI based on production practice. The Argonne work determines the source of the variation and suggests that a change in farming practice would lead to major emission reductions if implemented broadly.


“We conducted scenario-based CI analysis of corn ethanol, coupled with regionalized inventory data, for various farming practices to manage corn fields and identified key parameters affecting cradle-to-farm-gate GHG emissions,” said Liu. “The results demonstrate large spatial variations in CI for corn, and eventually for ethanol, due to farm input uses and land management practices.”


New Soil Models May Ease Atmospheric CO2, Climate Change


To remove carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere in an effort to slow climate change, scientists must get their hands dirty and peek underground.


In an article published in Nature Geoscience, Cornell University’s Johannes Lehmann and others wrote that scientists should develop new models that more accurately reflect the carbon-storage processes beneath our feet in order to effectively draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide.


Carbon’s journey into the soil is akin to a busy New York City rush hour, said Lehmann, noting that “everything in the soil is bustling and changing all the time on a daily or hourly basis.”


“Microorganisms are on the street, but carbon quickly disappears around the corner or hides in nooks and crannies,” he said. “Microorganisms in the soils that consume carbon can never be sure what tomorrow looks like.”


Think of it this way: Sometimes soil microorganisms see a lot of carbon but still cannot devour it.


Lehmann, professor of soil biogeochemistry and the lead author, along with an international, interdisciplinary group of scientists, propose the creation of new soil carbon-persistence models through the lens of “functional complexity” – the interplay between time and space in soil carbon’s changing molecular structure.


Functional complexity drives carbon sequestration, and scientists must know specifically how carbon stays in the ground, according to Lehmann.


“Even if soil microorganisms have a full smorgasbord in front of them, they don’t know what to eat if there is very little of each kind of carbon,” said Lehmann. “Although there is plenty of carbon, microorganisms starve, especially if they have to adjust to ever-changing conditions in a crazy maze.”


With new models, scientists believe they can find out exactly how sequestration works. It could then be properly reflected in the next assessment of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which likely will address drawing down atmospheric carbon.


Lehmann said that with modeling techniques gleaned from the field of engineering, for example, soil scientists can find better management methods to reduce atmospheric carbon.


“Collaboration in a stellar group of thinkers from diverse disciplines was key for us to come up with a new view on this old conundrum,” he said. “We seem to be building climate models based on an erroneous understanding of why organic carbon stays in soil and how microbes are eating it. We need a new thinking to incorporate the best models for IPCC and other climate prediction efforts.”


Other institutions on the project include Technical University Munich, Germany, which organized a workshop on this topic; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts; University of Vienna, Austria; Oregon State University; Stanford University; Stockholm University, Sweden; Sorbonne Université, Paris; Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany; the University of California, Santa Barbara; Berkeley Lab, California; the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado; and the University of Colorado.


Support for the work was provided by the German Excellence Initiative and the European Union Seventh Framework Program; the Technical University Munich and the Hans-Fischer-Senior Program; the U.S. Department of Energy; and the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.


Other News We Are Reading…

 Raising Nature on Florida Ranchlands



Blackbeard’s Ranch in southwestern Florida is hardly classic cattle-rustling terrain. Rumbling across his land in a swamp buggy, Jim Strickland steers past alligators and maneuvers through a dense mix of pines and saw palmettos. Cabbage palms soar in the distance. Strickland points out threatened sandhill cranes, crested caracaras, wetlands he restored to help improve drinking water, and gopher tortoises thriving after he burned invasive exotic plant species. Eventually, we happen upon the first cow. He grins proudly as he tells of finding black bear tracks in the sandy soil, watching the head-bobbing antics of burrowing owls and searching hopefully for a glimpse of his “white whale,” the Florida panther. Strickland [co-chair of the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group and a Manatee County rancher] was voted the Audubon Society’s Florida Sustainable Rancher of 2019. Read more…


U.S. Renewable Numbers Show  Strong Progress Towards a Long-Time Goal

(Renewables Now)


A recent analysis of data released by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) that measures the amount of power generated by various resources shows more than 25 percent of the nation’s net electrical generation came from renewable sources during the month of May. The percentage tracks the pursuit of a goal with origins dating back 15 years with the early formation of the 25x’25 Alliance, a Solutions from the Land initiative formed to promote the role of farms, ranches and forestlands in generating by 2025 at least 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, all while continuing to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed and fiber. Read more…


Renewable Energy Growth Continues at a Blistering Pace (Forbes)


Renewable energy continued its blistering growth pace in 2019, globally increasing by 12.2 percent over 2018. Over the past decade, renewable energy consumption has grown at an average annual rate of 13.7 percent. Renewables were the only category of energy that grew globally at double digits over the past decade. For perspective, in 2009 the world consumed 8.2 exajoules of renewable energy. In 2019, that had nearly quadrupled to 29.0 exajoules. Read more…


Agrivoltaics Propel Significant Reductions in Solar Maintenance Costs

(Utility Dive)


As the U.S. solar industry expands, arrays are spreading across more land – and the cost of keeping the sun on those panels through vegetation management is rising. A one-shot solution to both the land-use and cost challenges is emerging: agrivoltaics. The term covers dual-use projects that co-locate agriculture and photovoltaic panels, and often reduce O&M costs in the process. Solar energy panels are expected to cover 3 million acres in the U.S. by 2030 and 6 million by 2050, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Solar developers want to develop on land, and farmers want to use their land to make money, but there’s a lot of pushback in many rural areas because the landscapes are transforming and looking different,” said Jordan Macknick, lead energy-water-land analyst for NREL. “There’s going to be a large amount of solar development in every state. If this development is not done well or properly, we could see a loss in productivity of farmland.” Read more…


Disasters Expose the Hard Reality of Climate Change (The New York Times)

A low-grade hurricane that is slowly scraping along the East Coast. A wildfire in California that has led to evacuation orders for 8,000 people. And in both places, as well as everywhere between, a pandemic that keeps worsening. The daily morning briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, usually a dry document full of acronyms and statistics, has begun to resemble the setup for a disaster movie. But rather than a freak occurrence, experts say that the pair of hazards bracketing the country this week offers a preview of life under climate change: a relentless grind of overlapping disasters, major or minor. Read more…


Strudy:Stronger Rains in Warmer Climate Could Ease Heat Damage to Crops

(State of the Planet)


Intensified rainstorms predicted for many parts of the United States as a result of warming climate may have a modest silver lining: they could more efficiently water some major crops, and this would at least partially offset the far larger projected yield declines caused by the rising heat itself. The conclusion, which goes against some accepted wisdom, is contained in a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Numerous studies have projected that rising growing-season temperatures will drastically decrease yields of some major U.S. crops, absent adaptive measures. The damage will come from both steadily heightened evaporation of soil moisture due to higher background temperatures, and sudden desiccation of crops during heat waves. Some studies say that corn, which currently yields about 13 billion bushels a year and plays a major role in the U.S. economy, could nosedive 10 to 30 percent by the mid- to late century. Soy-the United States is the world’s leading producer-could decline as much as 15 percent. Read more…


$16 Billion Plan to Beam Australia’s Outback Sun onto Asia’s Power Grids

 (The Washington Post)


Could Australia, one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal and natural gas, become a solar superpower? The island continent, distant from Asia’s megacities, plans to capture the plentiful Outback sun, store it in giant batteries until nightfall and transmit it to Singapore along a watermelon-width cable traversing 2,800 miles of sea floor, including a deep trench. The Australia-ASEAN Power Link, which is part-owned by two Australian billionaires and was endorsed last month by the Australian government, may be the most ambitious renewable energy project underway anywhere. And it could mark a new chapter in the history of energy: the intercontinental movement of green power. Read more…


Nitrogen Cycling in Switchgrass Varieties 

(Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center)


High yielding switchgrass varieties that require minimal nitrogen fertilization are crucial to bioenergy research because of their economically and environmentally sustainable qualities. Switchgrass, like other perennial grasses, extracts nitrogen from soils by growing long roots and by forming relationships with root fungi. Switchgrass also associates with microbes that can fix nitrogen, i.e., take up nitrogen from air and convert it into a compound plants can use to grow. Additionally, by conserving nitrogen in perennial roots, switchgrass reduces its annual nitrogen requirements. GLBRC researchers studied how nitrogen acquisition and conservation varies in 12 switchgrass varieties. Read more…



Partner News and CSA Events

SfL’s Global Work Moves Ahead, Examines Pandemic in Promoting SDGs


SfL’s work stream for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) continues to grow as the now co-joined global issues of climate change, widespread hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic are spotlighting the need for transformational changes in the world’s food systems.


In July, senior advisors and farmer envoys recently recruited to help guide the organizations’ pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals held their inaugural meeting to discuss the platforms through which SfL is participating, including the UN Climate Convention, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Food Systems Summit, among others.


A key area of focus for the meeting was the process and a framework for a report under development that will share specific pathways and pragmatic action steps farmers can take to deiver high value solutions in support of SDGs. The report will incorporate case study examples of real farmer/rancher experiences, likely reinforced with video testimonials of producers showcasing their work, challenges and accomplishments. The aim is to describe innovative and integrated land management system/practices that produce multiple outcomes/benefits.


To be written with a famer’s voice, the paper will detail what ag producers are experiencing, how they are innovating to meet challenges and what more is needed.


Additions to the planned report content include more emphasis on the role of technology and innovation and its availability, access and acceptability; barriers/enablers to scale; and the potential of terrestrial solutions for food system change. Also, healthy diets, fair value chains and food and waste loss will be noted as “building blocks” in the report.


The SDG drafting team met earlier this month to finalize the report framework outline and discuss writing assignments. The goal is to have a first draft ready for review by Labor Day and to release the report just ahead of the FAO Committee on Food Security meeting in mid-October.


SfL Planning Side Event at February CFS Meeting


Work continues on a side event being organized by SfL for the February Committee on Food Security (CFS) meeting in Rome. The side event aims to spotlight climate smart agriculture systems and practices farmers are using to deliver high-value solutions to improve food and nutrition security. The practices simultaneously enhance health and livelihoods, improve the environment, enhance biodiversity and deliver high-value terrestrial solutions to climate change.


Focusing on outcomes, our farmer and rancher presenters will showcase how they are harnessing innovation and technology, coupled with conservation and agroecology systems and practices to meet the SDGs.


The side event, which is being co-organized with the Global Farmers Network and the Global Dairy Platform, will target a diverse range of stakeholders actively seeking to shape the way agriculture is performed across the planet. Stakeholders include farmers (with a special emphasis on women and youth), value chain partners, civil society, government and agencies that could benefit from solution pathways that achieve multiple objectives.


By sharing knowledge and real-world experiences and outcomes, the panel members and participants can learn from each other, converge and forge census on pragmatic, proven and innovative agricultural solutions that benefit producers, the public and the planet.


A number of counties have agreed to co-host the event, including Argentina, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States


Elsewhere on the global stage, in response to an invitation from FAO for case studies, an “entrepreneurship, technology and innovation” study has been submitted featuring SfL farmer envoy and cranberry grower Adrienne Moller.


The study, which was produced by Moller and Natural Resource Solutions Project Associate Cara Urban, details the climate smart agriculture challenges and adaptations Adrienne has made in her berry operation, along with her experiences in the Ocean Spray Academy, which aims to develop future cooperative and community leaders and innovators of all genders.


New Report: Economic Cost of Climate Change Strains U.S. Economy


Billion-dollar weather disasters fueled by climate change are becoming more frequent and more devastating to state and local economies, according to a report by Datu Research commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund, a NACSAA partner organization.


The report, Climate Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies, quantifies the economic cost of specific extreme weather disasters on Americans today, including in specific states, as well as likely future costs if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and global temperatures continue to climb. Each of the weather events detailed in the report caused damages equaling or exceeding $1 billion in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Iowa, among others.


“COVID-19 and recent climate disasters have shown that we must step up investment in preparedness now, instead of waiting for the next crisis to hit,” said Elgie Holstein, Senior Director for Strategic Planning, Environmental Defense Fund. “Mounting climate impacts are leading to a perfect storm, where federal, state, and local governments will be staggered by mounting disaster assistance demands while simultaneously trying to recover from deep recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Faster action to reduce climate change and more proactive investment in resilience are crucial to safeguard our future – and to help places and people adapt and succeed in the face of tremendous change,” Holstein said.


According to the report, which consolidates information from leading journals, government datasets and other key sources, both the incidence and cost of extreme weather events are on the rise.


Since 1980, the United States has seen a four-fold increase in the annual number of severe weather disasters, including hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other events examined in this report. Those costs are putting a growing strain on the ability of federal and state agencies to respond to disasters at the same time that they are fighting to prevent the country from plunging further into a long-term, deep recession. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that since 2005, the federal government, including FEMA, has spent at least $450 billion on disaster assistance.


The report and accompanying documents include recommendations and lessons learned that can help ensure states have the resources they need to handle these disasters in the years to come and can rebuild better. The fiscal pressures are particularly acute this year: States are facing record budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some anticipating revenue losses of over 20 percent and making budget cuts of equal magnitude to address this shortfall.


As Congress debates how to recover from the pandemic and assist states, businesses, and the nation’s workers, it must simultaneously invest in efforts to mitigate costly climate-fueled disasters.


Such steps include:

  • Protecting vulnerable communities and building resilience by emphasizing preservation and restoration of natural features along our coasts and prioritizing pre-disaster mitigation. This can include creating a Resilient Communities Loan fund program and expanding current FEMA efforts such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
  • Committing to immediate climate action to move the United States to a 100% clean economy no later than 2050, including through investment in cleaner transportation, manufacturing, buildings, energy and more.

Even in the depths of a global pandemic and recession, climate change has not stopped, the EDF warns. “The atmosphere is still warming, sea levels are still rising and storms are still brewing. As the report makes clear, the need for government aid is far outpacing available resources, and the problem is only getting worse. The time for action is now.”


USDA to Invest up to $360 Million in Partner-Driven Conservation


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is inviting potential conservation partners to submit project applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS will award up to $360 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.


USDA is a NACSAA partner.


“RCPP brings an expanded approach to investing in natural resource conservation that empowers local communities to work with multiple partners and agricultural producers to design solutions that work best for them,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr.


Partners may request between $250,000 and $10 million in RCPP funding through this funding announcement. Partners are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding in an amount equal or greater to the NRCS investment.


Eligible lead partners are encouraged to apply. Funding is open to private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities, among others. The full list of eligible entities is available in the RCPP funding announcement.


First authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has combined nearly $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in non-NRCS dollars to implement conservation practices across the nation. There are 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. Successful RCPP projects provide innovative conservation solutions, leverage partner contributions and offer impactful and measurable outcomes.


NRCS requested public comment on the RCPP Critical Conservation Areas and their associated priority resource concerns as part of a review allowed by the Farm Bill once every five years. This funding announcement introduces CCA changes that resulted from the review:

  • The California Bay-Delta and Columbia River Basin CCAs have been combined into the Western Waters CCA, which also encompasses the Klamath River Basin and the Puget Sound Basin.
  • A new CCA – Northeast Forests and Waters – has been added to the roster. This CCAs priority resource concerns include water quality and wildlife habitat. The boundaries of the CCA encompass Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

USDA is now accepting proposals for RCPP through the RCPP portal     . Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 4, 2020. For more information, view the Application for Program Funding on


A webinar with general program information for RCPP applicants is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug 27, 2020. Visit the RCPP website for information on how to participate.


ACE Marks Anniversary of RFS Anniversary


The head of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), a NACSAA partner organization, marked the anniversary of legislation enacting in 2005 the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by releasing a statement that cites the policy’s success over the past 15 years.


But ACE CEO Brian Jennings also slammed what he said was the “mismanagement” of the RFS program by the EPA.


“Congress was right to enact the Renewable Fuel Standard…because it has indeed resulted in cleaner air, lower priced fuel for motorists, and economic development in rural America,” Jennings said. “Since the RFS was signed into law, the ethanol industry has experienced improved market share and a growing number of co-products, as well as technology innovations that have driven efficiencies and shrunk the carbon footprints of plants.


But he said the EPA has manipulated the program to benefit fossil fuel refiners “who have taken the RFS on a joy ride which has limited the program’s upside potential.”


A flurry of small-refinery exemptions (SREs) to the RFS biofuel blending requirements was essentially rejected by a federal appellate court. But the agency has now invited refiners to submit waiver requests for years going back to 2011 – a move the agency believes will bring their waivers in compliance.


While EPA invited refineries to submit the SRE requests earlier this year, the applications initially go to the Energy Department. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said the gap SRE applications were sent to the agency by DOE only in recent weeks and that no decisions have been made on any of them. President Trump said this week he would “speak to” EPA officials about the industry’ concerns.


Last month, the agency disclosed that it has received 59 retroactive SRE petitions, or so-called “gap filings,” for RFS compliance years 2011 through 2016. While EPA has yet to act on those petitions, Jennings says the agency has yet to offer answers regarding the waivers and “continues to delay applying the precedent” set by the Tenth Circuit Court nationally and no decision on their status.


But biofuel industry leaders cite EPA’s readiness to grant dozens of SREs previously submitted before the appellate ruling came down eight months ago.


Jennings said that since the 10th Circuit Court issued it decision, the agency has taken no steps to comply with the court ruling to limit SREs, but instead “seems merely interested in providing refiners yet another escape hatch in the form of the now nearly 60 retroactive waiver requests.”


The ACE CEO said that in addition to constantly defending and protecting the RFS, his group “has been laying the strategic groundwork necessary to leverage ethanol’s low carbon value in the market through new clean fuel policies at the state and federal level.”


Jennings also said the EPA has “punted” on issuing its proposed renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2021, nor has it addressed the loss in fuel demand to ensure the 2020 RVOs are met this year.


ABC Applauds Policy Promoting On-Farm Energy Before House Ag Panel


Iowa Smart Agriculture (IASA) Work Group Co-Chair Bryan Sievers, who is vice chair of the American Biogas Council, a NACSAA partner, testified at a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture hearing on the value of biogas systems and federal programs that enable their development.


In his testimony submitted to the ag panel, which held a hearing on the impacts of on-farm energy production on farm income and rural communities, Sievers said that policies the committee formulate, particularly within the farm bill’s energy title, drive the production of on-farm energy, including anaerobic digesters, and “have been incredibly successful in growing the on-farm and rural economy.


“Because of the research, loan and grants provided by these programs, biogas and biotechnology companies are developing new technologies and feedstocks for the conversion of biomass for the production of renewable energy, advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, renewable fertilizers and biobased products,” he said.


An Iowa farmer, Sievers is owner and operator of Sievers Family Farms, as well as the award-winning AgriReNew biogas system, which recycles beef cattle manure, corn stover and local food processing waste into renewable electricity and soil products.


His testimony included the importance of how several programs in the 2018 Farm Bill, including the Renewable Energy for America program (REAP) and the Environmental Qualities Incentives Program (EQIP), as well as other federal initiatives like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), tax credits and research support on-farm energy production and growth of the biogas industry.


He offered a number of recommendations to enhance the farm bill energy programs, including the “widely popular” Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). Sievers called for $20 million be appropriated annually for REAP through 2023, the level authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. Sievers noted that REAP has provided benefits to the full agricultural value chain, from producers and co-ops, to biotechnology and clean energy companies operating across rural America. He said more than 13,000 projects across all 50 states have received awards since its inception in the 2008 Farm Bill, leveraging more than $3 billion in private investment.


“REAP is one of the rural economy’s best methods to drive growth in America’s energy infrastructure and resiliency,” Sievers testified. “The program has been instrumental in helping deploy biogas systems throughout the rural economy, allowing agricultural producers, through the use of digesters, to make products from waste streams – manure and crop residues – that would otherwise be viewed as an environmental challenge.”


Also testifying on behalf of the ABC was Mike McCloskey, founder and chairman of Fair Oaks Farms, an Indiana dairy operation that has been responsible for the construction of multiple biogas systems that recycle dairy manure into renewable biogas and soil products.


McCloskey said biogas production “is representative of the comprehensive systems approach we are taking on our farms to work toward a goal of net-zero emissions.”


Biogas systems, he added, close disconnected carbon and nutrient cycles on a dairy farm, while offering producers an additional revenue stream.”


McCloskey said a well-designed biogas system can convert manure into electricity, bedding, fertilizer and compost, all while reducing methane and carbon emissions, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus loading are reduced.”


He touted the “Net Zero Initiative” (NZI), an industry-wide effort to help U.S. dairy continue to make progress toward greenhouse gas emissions reductions and significant improvements in water from field to farmgate through new technologies and practices in feed production, cow care, energy efficiency and manure management.


McCloskey said NZI “is about each dairy farm – regardless of size, region, or production style – contributing what it can, where it can. No individual farm will be held to the Net Zero target, yet all will play a part. I, and my fellow dairy farmers, look forward to working with Congress, USDA, DOE, and EPA to further the environmental and economic sustainability of U.S. dairy.”


Bayer Aims to Make Carbon Sequestration Ag’s Newest Crop Opportunity


Bayer, a NACSAA partner, has launched a new initiative the company says offers agriculture another solution to positively impact climate change.


Bayer is now rewarding farmers in the United States and Brazil for generating carbon credits by adopting climate-smart practices – such as no-till farming and the use of cover crops – designed to help agriculture reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


Bayer’s Carbon Initiative is the result of years of work validating a science-based approach and methodology to make this happen, the company says. The initiative recognizes the pivotal role growers and their land can play in helping to create lasting, positive environmental impacts and is the latest in the company’s sustainability commitments specifically aimed at reducing field GHG emission by 30 percent in 2030.


“Farmers are passionate environmentalists and stewards of the lands they farm,” said Brett Begemann, Chief Operating Officer of Bayer’s Crop Science division. “Their lives and livelihoods depend on the weather, and they are some of the first to be affected by drought, flooding and extreme conditions. If anyone has a vested interest in battling climate change, it’s farmers and we are committed to developing new business models like this unique Carbon Initiative to help them in that fight.”


Soil is one of the most effective ways of sequestering carbon. Incentivizing farmers to embrace no-till, precision nitrogen use or cover crops helps further sequester carbon into the soil, reduce fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gases. While today farmers get rewarded solely for their food, feed and fiber production, those participating in the Bayer Carbon Initiative will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their best farm management practices and other sustainability efforts as well.


The program’s 2020/2021 season will include approximately 1,200 farmers in the United States and Brazil. In both countries, farmers will receive assistance in implementing climate-smart agricultural practices and Bayer will acquire the carbon removals created by those practices at transparent prices. The company is also collaborating with partners such as Embrapa in Brazil to build a viable carbon market for farmers.


Bayer plans to expand the program in the U.S. and Brazil to other farmers and then later into other world regions with tailored approaches that will allow growers to choose what climate-smart practices and implementation works best for them. In Europe, the company is exploring how the approach could be adapted as part of the European Green Deal. In Asia-Pacific, Bayer says its goal is to help increase productivity for smallholder farmers as well as reduce methane emissions from rice farming.


“We are excited to partner with farmers through this new Bayer Carbon Initiative,” Begemann added. “We’re honored to take this major step with farmers to create a carbon-zero future for agriculture, an important legacy that we can create with farmers to leave to the next generation.”


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