Policy Update: CRP Updates and New Federal Climate Goal
President Biden announced an ambitious new climate goal at today’s (virtual) global climate summit called in honor of Earth Day. The goal is for the US to achieve a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. This pledge nearly doubles that of President Obama, who set a goal to reduce emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. He also pledged to double (by 2024) the amount of money the US will provide to help developing countries to meet their own climate goals. The summit was attended by other world leaders including President Xi of China, President Putin of Russia, President Bolsonaro of Brazil, and many more.
The White House released a statement on the new goal, providing some information on how it might be achieved. Agriculture was mentioned twice in the short document, highlighting the sector’s growing importance in the climate conversation:
“This target prioritizes American workers. Meeting the 2030 emissions target will create millions of good-paying, middle class, union jobs… [including] farmers using cutting-edge tools to make American soil the next frontier of carbon innovation.”
“The United States can reduce emissions from forests and agriculture and enhance carbon sinks through a range of programs and measures including nature-based solutions for ecosystems ranging from our forests and agricultural soils to our rivers and coasts.”
On a different note, yesterday USDA announced important changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), saying that “the Biden-Harris Administration is working to leverage USDA conservation programs for climate mitigation.”
- Enroll up to 4 million additional CRP acres (current enrollment is 20.8 million acres, but is capped at 25 million).
- Increase the acreage cap to 27 million acres by 2023.
- Adjust soil rental rates, including increasing rates where appropriate.
- Increase payments for Practice Incentives from 20% to 50%.
- Increase payments for water quality practices from 10% to 20% for certain water quality benefiting practices available through the CRP continuous signup, such as riparian buffers.
- Establish a CRP Grassland minimum rental rate which will benefit more than 1,300 counties with rates currently below the minimum.
- Expand the CLEAR30 pilot program (a long-term option through CRP) from the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay pilot regions to nationwide.
- Hold a 2021 signup period in the Prairie Pothole states for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP), a short-term option for farmers to plant cover on less productive acres.
- Increase NRCS technical assistance capacity for CRP by $140 million.
- Invest $10 million in the
- CRP Monitoring, Assessment, and Evaluation (MAE) program to measure and monitor the soil carbon and climate resilience impacts of conservation practices over the life of new CRP contracts.
- Move State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices to the CRP continuous signup.
- Establish National Grassland Priority Zones to increase enrollment of grasslands in migratory corridors and environmentally sensitive areas.
- Make Highly Erodible Land Initiative (HELI) practices available in both the general and continuous signups.