Policy Update: USDA Sets Goal to Halve Ag’s Environmental Footprint by 2050
On Thursday, February 20, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, which calls for cutting agriculture’s “environmental footprint” by 50% while increasing production by 40%, all by 2050. The Secretary stressed the importance of technology and innovation in feeding the world’s growing population and discussed national carbon pricing as an option.
The Agenda consists of three main sections of commitments. The first commitment is to align public and private research efforts based on community input. The USDA will use the National Academies “Science Breakthroughs to Advance Food and Agricultural Research by 2030” report as a guideline. This report, released in 2018, identifies five areas for food and agricultural research prioritization: cross-disciplinary collaboration, sensing technologies, advanced analytics and data science, genomics and precision breeding, and the microbiome.
The second commitment is to integrate and rapidly adopt innovative conservation technologies and practices into existing USDA programs. The third commitment is to improve data collection and reporting to better understand conservation practice adoption, trends, and progress.
Finally, the Agenda proposed a series of benchmarks, including:
- Increasing production by 40% by 2050.
- Building landscape resiliency by investing in “active forest management” and forest restoration.
- Reducing food loss and waste by 50% from the 2010 baseline by 2030.
- Increasing carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, increasing ethanol production, and achieving a “net reduction of the agriculture sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.”
- Reducing nutrient loss by 30% by 2050.
- Supporting renewable fuels, including ethanol, biodiesel, and biomass, and increasing biofuel production, efficiency, and competitiveness.