President Joe Biden is expected this week to issue a pledge to slash America’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, and he'll host an online global climate summit where world leaders will likely be watching to see how far he’ll go to ensure the commitment is met.
The commitment, coupled with new actions that Biden may order departments and agencies to take, could ramp up the pressure on agriculture to help reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.
Ahead of the summit, some 310 corporations, including many in the food, beverage and cotton apparel sector, called on Biden to release a nationally determined commitment, or NDC, that the United States would cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Agriculture accounts for about 9% of U.S. emissions.
Global leaders will be watching to see not only what the pledge is but what concrete steps the administration promises to carry it out, said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium.
“Other countries are still wary” of the U.S., she said. “We haven't always been the best partner, certainly not over the past four years.”
The 310 companies that signed the appeal to Biden also pledged to increase their corporate commitments to slash emissions in their supply chains. Among the companies behind the appeal: Bayer, Coca-Cola, Danone, Gap, H&M, Kellogg, Lundberg Family Farms, Levi Strauss and Co., Mars, McDonald’s, Nestle, POET, Ralph Lauren, Sodexo, Starbucks, Stonyfield Yogurt, Syngenta, Target and Walmart.
The impact of the new U.S. NDC on farmers depends in part on how far the president goes in requiring federal departments and agencies to take actions to reduce emissions in the attainment of the target, Reed said.
For example, Agriculture Department purchases of ag carbon credits and increased USDA spending for conservation practices that reduce emissions could be counted toward meeting the U.S. target. Those actions also could have the effect of tightening the supply of private carbon credits and increasing their value, she said.
The leaders invited to the summit that takes place Thursday and Friday around Earth Day represent the 17 biggest economies, which in turn account for about 80% of emissions.
“Obviously, the United States is one of the world's largest emitters, but so are a number of countries who will be represented by leaders” at the summit, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
“It’s aimed at setting the world up for success on multiple fronts as we work to address the climate crisis, including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, resilience, and adaptation,” she added.
The White House also is developing an executive order that will require agencies and departments, including USDA, to measure, mitigate and disclose the risks that climate change poses to the federal government, according to a recent Politico report. USDA would be required to factor climate-related financial risks into underwriting and lending standards, the report said.
In another significant development for ag climate policy this week, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is expected to release a new version of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which is intended to accelerate the development of ag carbon markets by putting USDA in charge of certifying technical assistance and credit verification services.
Some changes have been made to the version that was originally introduced last June to provide funding for the USDA program, detail the program’s intent, add some protections for farmers, and revise the membership of an advisory committee.
Stabenow and the bill’s original GOP co-sponsor, Mike Braun of Indiana, have worked with the committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, to secure additional GOP sponsors.
Also this week, the Senate Ag Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Thursday for Biden’s nominee to be USDA’s deputy secretary, Virginia Ag Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh.
Bronaugh should have no trouble getting confirmed. "She's got an excellent reputation, is very well respected and very well-liked," Boozman told Agri-Pulse.
The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on rural broadband needs. The hearing comes as Biden tries to sell Congress on his $2.7 trillion infrastructure package, which would earmark $100 billion for broadband expansion.
Also Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee will shine a spotlight on U.S.-China trade policy with a hearing that is supposed to focus on increasing U.S. competitiveness.
On Friday, Agri-Pulse will host an online forum where House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and a group of agribusiness industry leaders will discuss ways to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in U.S. agriculture. The webinar is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association. Click here to register for the free event.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, April 19
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, April 20
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on rural broadband needs.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on USDA nutrition assistance programs.
10 a.m — Senate Banking Committee online hearing, “An Economy that Works For Everyone: Investing in Rural Communities.
10 a.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
10:30 a.m. — Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on climate and infrastructure with EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge.
Wednesday, April 21
10 a.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
Thursday, April 22
White House Climate Summit, through Friday.
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Jewel Bronaugh to be deputy agriculture secretary, 301 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, “The Role of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Preventing Action on the Climate Crisis."
10 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing on U.S.-China relations, 215 Dirksen.
Friday, April 23
9 a.m. — USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.
11 a.m. — Agri-Pulse webinar, “Diversity, equity and inclusion in agriculture: Ideas for improvement,” with House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and industry leaders.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com.