Vilsack Back at USDA - Climate Change a Priority

Feb 26, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4628

The Biden Administration has made clear their intentions to center efforts on studying climate.

Two more ‘C’ words, Congress and carbon came together this week as hearings on the topic began.

Josh Buettner reports.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema/D - Arizona: “The yeas are 92, the nays are 7, and the nominee is confirmed.”

Following strong bi-partisan Senate confirmation, this week the Biden Adminstration welcomed former USDA chief Tom Vilsack back to the role he held throughout former President Barrack Obama’s tenure. 

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA: “…so help me, God.”

Vice-President Kamala Harris: “Congratulations, Mr. Secretary!"

On the heels of Vilsack’s swearing in, the House Agricultural Committee took the reins on one priority for the new administration, speaking with members of the weather, agriculture and environmental sectors about utilizing farm, forestry and conservation techniques to combat climate change.

Rep. David Scott/D-Georgia/Chair – House Agriculture Committee: “This is, perhaps, the single most important hearing that we must have right now.”

Gabe Brown/Brown’s Ranch – Bismarck, North Dakota: “As a farmer and rancher, I’ve been affected by the extreme variability in weather.  Drought, flooding, extreme cold and heat…the change in our climate is affecting everyone and every farm.  Agriculture is often vilified as being a major contributor to climate change.  But you can help agriculture become a major part of the solution.”

Pamela Knox/Agricultural Climatologist – University of Georgia:  “30 to 40 percent of all the food produced is never used.  This means that the fuel, water and fertilizer used to produce it is wasted.  And more greenhouse gases are produced as that food waste is dumped into landfills and tractors and water pumps are run for no good reason.”

Zippy Duvall/President – American Farm Bureau Federation: “Total carbon sink efforts from forestland, grassland management and management of cropland offset approximately 12 percent of the U.S. emissions.  To continue to make these gains in carbon sequestration, we need to increase investment in agricultural research.”

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA: “I think we are at a why not moment with reference to climate change.”

Testifying before lawmakers weeks prior, Vilsack championed the notion of new markets to incentivize soil health and build bio-manufacturing rural economies. 

While the agricultural field welcomes those new opportunities, committee members shared concerns that opportunistic carbon markets could squeeze out smaller producers. 

Dusty Johnson/R-South Dakota: “I think a number of experts indicate that that could be a real concern with something like a carbon bank.”

Prodded by Republicans, farm advocates said the additional revenue streams remain largely undiscovered, and possible climate-related taxes and regulations could spur an exodus of support for USDA’s endeavor.

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

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