USDA to Reward Farmers
by Associated Press
BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it will begin rewarding farmers and ranchers whose tilling and planting practices help reduce greenhouse gases.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said the department will take greenhouse gas management practices into account when evaluating farmers' applications for conservation grants and subsidies. The deparmtne will also offer technical assistance, demonstrations and pilot programs.
"This is good for the environment and it is good for agriculture," Veneman said.
Greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to global warming, can be reduced through carbon sequestration -- the natural process by which carbon dioxide in the air is turned into carbon stored in the soil and in plants.
Farmers can increase carbon sequestration by tilling less; increasing crop rotation; adding buffer strips; reducing soil erosion; using crops like corn and wheat that leave high amounts of residue in the soil; using cover crops; and selecting plant varieties that store more carbon.
Ranchers can increase carbon sequestratoiin by doing such things as improving forage quality and reducing overgrazing.
Veneman did not disclose how much would be made available to encourage measures that capture carbon dioxide. But she said the moneuy would come from fundgin already available to the department.
Overall, the Agriculture Department will invest almost $3.9 billion in agriculture and forest conservation on private land next year, an increase of $1.7 billion over 2001.
Veneman made the announcment at the National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame in suburban Kansas City, where she was joined by Kansas State University agronomy professor Charles Rice.
Rice, who is part of the Consortium for Agricultural Soil Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases, said carbon sequestration is not a permanent solution to global warming, but it buys time to develop more efficient energy sources.
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