PepsiCo is giving a big boost to efforts by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action to reduce greenhouse gases in agriculture, donating $5 million to a year-old partnership now rebranded as AgMission.

FFAR and USFRA have already invested over $50 million in projects advancing research efforts to reduce GHGs from agriculture, “and are actively seeking matching funds from outside partners to accelerate and expand the program,” a FFAR spokesperson tells Agri-Pulse. “The full scope of the anticipated effort is estimated at $200 million.”

Why it matters: “Similar to the Human Genome Project, AgMission envisions an expansive public-private partnership, that will be grounded in technology, research, farmer participation and worldwide data sharing,” says FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey.

One project being funded by the partnership is a National Academy of Sciences study to identify how to best implement specific emission-reducing ag practices.

Sen. Cory Booker

Lawmakers propose billions for conservation

Lawmakers are re-introducing legislation that would pump billions of dollars into farm bill conservation programs that could help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The lawmakers want to get the money included in a massive climate and infrastructure package that Democrats are developing.

The lead sponsors are Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who joined the Senate Agriculture Committee this year, and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee that oversees conservation programs.

“In order to address the urgent and existential threat posed by climate change, we must have funding for all of these programs included in comprehensive climate change legislation this year,” Booker said.

Why it matters: Among other things, the bill would increases mandatory funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program from $1.75 billion in 2019 to $7 billion per year by 2024, with the new funding targeted to climate stewardship practices. Similarly, the Conservation Stewardship Program would also be increased to $7 billion, up from the $700 million it received in 2019.

The bill would nearly double the size of the Conservation Reserve Program, raising its limit to 40 million acres.

President Joe Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure package only has a relatively small amount of money for agriculture and climate, including $1 billion earmarked for the vague purpose of ag resource management.

By the way: Biden said during a meeting with lawmakers Monday that he was serious about negotiating with Republicans on the bill.

Belgium to ban biofuels made with soy oil and palm oil

Starting next year, Belgium plans to ban the use of biofuels made with soy oil and palm oil as part of the country’s efforts to comply with the European Union’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under its Renewable Energy Directive, first adopted in 2018.

The directive leaves it up to individual European countries on how they will show improved sustainability and Belgium is focused on the conversion of environmentally sensitive land and deforestation as farmers plant more crops, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

“The Belgian Ministry for the Environment explains that they wish to exclude biofuels that cause widespread deforestation and land use change from the Belgian market,” according to the FAS report out of Brussels. “They note that some studies conclude that palm and (soy) oil are the most environmentally damaging raw materials in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, indirect land use change and deforestation.”

Wanted: Consumers to help find broadband gaps

The Federal Communications Commission is asking consumers to download its Speed Test app to help the agency improve its broadband coverage maps. The app allows consumers to test the performance speeds of their mobile and in-home broadband networks.

“Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

The FCC says the app will protect the privacy and confidentiality of program volunteers.

Food bank providing produce in 2020. (USDA)

USDA rolls out produce boxes for food banks

USDA is expanding offerings to food banks under the Emergency Food Assistance Program to include boxes of fresh fruit and vegetable boxes. The department based the move on feedback received at recent listening sessions.

“Food banks have asked that we support them with more fresh produce, so we are excited to provide a new fresh produce box to states for their network of food banks,” said Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services.

The TEFAP packages will be 10-12 pounds and are expected to have a shelf life of 7-10 days.

USAID launches commission to combat zoonotic disease

The world is now suffering through a pandemic because of a virus that started in animals and some of the worst diseases to plague mankind started the same way. The U.S. Agency for International Development has tasked Cargill, Ausvet – specializing in animal disease outbreaks – and Heifer International – a nonprofit fighting hunger – and the International Poultry Council with a five-year mission to “improve livestock management and combat the threat of zoonotic diseases to both human and animal health.”

Chuck Warta, head of Cargill’s health technologies business, says his company is confident its “global reach and research capabilities, combined with our partners’ unique expertise and influence in animal agriculture, can minimize these massive threats to our global food system and to human health.”

She said it. “I think the president wants to get something done (and) wants to do something big.” – Nebraska GOP Sen. Deb Fischer, when reporters asked her if Biden bit on her suggestion during Monday’s meeting to break the infrastructure package into smaller pieces.

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Ben Nuelle contributed to this report.