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USDA seeking feedback on climate-smart farming practices

The input is being collected through a Request for Information to establish voluntary standards for biofuel feedstocks grown with practices that mitigate GHG emissions and/or sequester soil carbon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking information from the public on procedures for quantifying, reporting, and verifying the effect of climate-smart farming practices on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with U.S.-grown biofuel feedstock crops.

The input is being collected through a Request for Information to establish voluntary standards for biofuel feedstocks grown with practices that mitigate GHG emissions and/or sequester soil carbon. These standards, authorized by section 2709 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, would be available for consideration in international, national, or state clean transportation fuel policies to further incentivize climate-smart biofuel feedstock crops.

Growing crops as feedstocks for biofuels contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and using climate-smart practices, such as cover crops or no-till, can reduce on-farm GHG emissions. Currently, clean fuel transportation policies do not distinguish between how crops are grown – whether with all conventional practices or one or more climate-smart practices. Following the issuance of U.S. Treasury’s guidance on the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) tax credit, including the USDA Climate-Smart Agriculture Pilot Program, this Request for Information will help inform options for a robust standard that creates additional market opportunities for U.S. farmers and provides reliable environmental benefits. Through this RFI, USDA is interested in seeking feedback on opportunities to better reflect lower GHG emissions for biofuel feedstocks grown with climate-smart practices. Doing so would help tackle climate change by incentivizing practices that reduce GHG emissions – and it would be a win for farmers and rural communities.

“By creating opportunities for biofuels policies to reflect climate-smart farming practices, we are enabling new markets for American producers and incentivizing more greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This request for information lays the foundation for policies that would bring economic benefits to rural and farm communities while also helping in the fight against climate change.”

A greater adoption of climate-smart farming practices could lower overall GHG emissions associated with biofuel production and provide other environmental benefits, such as improved water quality and soil health. Accurate quantification and verification are important to ensure that net GHG emissions reductions are real. Improving the ability to accurately quantify and verify the GHG outcomes of climate-smart farming practices can also provide additional benefits, including improved credibility and confidence in a variety of climate-smart markets.

USDA’s RFI will publish in the Federal Register on June 27, 2024 and is seeking feedback on topics including:

  1. Biofuel feedstock crops and practices for consideration in USDA’s analysis.
  2. Scientific data, information, and analysis for consideration in quantifying the greenhouse gas emissions outcomes of climate-smart agricultural practices and conventional farming practices.
  3. Records, documentation, and data necessary to provide sufficient evidence to verify practice adoption and maintenance.
  4. Systems used to trace feedstocks throughout the biofuel supply chain.
  5. Third-party verification of practice adoption and maintenance.

The Request for Information is available for public inspection and comments may be submitted starting June 27. Interested parties may submit comments during the 30-day public comment period, which will end on July 26, 2024.

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