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USDA Commitments

USDA Life Cycle Assessment Digital Commons

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a widely used tool that assesses potential environmental impacts for a given product, process, or activity throughout its entire life span.  A complete LCA assessment provides a holistic, comprehensive assessment of a product’s impacts, from those associated with the inputs used in its production through to those arising from its consumption and disposal.  LCA can be expanded to include impacts related to the economic and social pillars of sustainable development through economic valuations and measurement of social indicators such as labor, justice, and equity. Governments, industries and international organizations increasingly recognize the usefulness of LCA in analysing tradeoffs to improve resource efficiency, conservation, and the greening of the economy.  The USDA LCA Digital Commons is an open-access, comprehensive inventory of peer-reviewed, standard formatted U.S. LCA data.  It is USDA’s contribution to the collection, organization, management, dissemination, and preservation of LCA data for current and future public and private decision-making and research.  EPA and DOE have supplied data in support of this effort. 

Global Biodiversity Information Facility

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), co-founded by the United States in 2001, is the conduit for approximately 320 million biodiversity records from 379 data publishers around the world.  These records are primarily geo-referenced occurrences of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine plants, animals, fungi, and microbes, as well as scientific name data.  The integrated presentation of these data, which are managed by a variety of database engines on numerous platforms, is possible because of shared protocols and standards for data and metadata that have been developed by the user-provider community.  These globally shared standards and protocols, which are coordinated and promoted by GBIF, enable application of biodiversity data at all spatial scales and across geopolitical boundaries.  GBIF is one of the few global systems that have demonstrated that data from many distributed providers can be presented to a human or machine user through a single point of access.  USDA commits to funding for GBIF for 2012-2013. 

U.S. Commitment to the Bonn Challenge on Forest Landscape Restoration

The Bonn Challenge, promoted by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, is a commitment to restore 150 million hectares of lost forests and degraded lands worldwide by 2020.  In response to the Bonn Challenge, the United States commits to the restoration of 15 million hectares (36 million acres) of forest land by 2020. 

The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship

This program is designed to increase the agricultural research capacity of developing countries, strengthening the human and institutional capital base needed to promote agricultural sector innovation, food security and sustainable development. It provides research and training opportunities to early- and mid-career agricultural researchers and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries. USDA partners with U.S. land-grant universities, international research centers, and other institutions to provide up to 12 weeks of U.S.-based training each year.  In FY 2012, the Borlaug program plans to host 34 participants from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. An additional 10-12 fellowships in cooperation with U.S. Agency for International Development, will be awarded to women scientists with an emphasis on agricultural entrepreneurship.

Agroforestry and Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

Through this cooperative partnership, Canada and the U.S. will collaborate on research and development for the advancement of agroforestry science and tools for climate change mitigation and adaptation in temperate North America.  The collaboration recognizes the benefits of agroforestry as a land management approach to help landowners achieve natural resource goals such as improved water quality and more productive soils.  The collaboration will also support the Global Research Alliance on Agriculture Greenhouse Gases, of which both countries are members.  Information will be shared with landowners, managers, and natural resource professionals. 

Scientific Cooperation Research Program: Addressing Challenges Faced by Smallholders in Emerging Economies

The objective of SCRP is to reduce global poverty and hunger by supporting applied scientific research, extension, or education projects that aim to address challenges faced by smallholder farmers in emerging economies.  Proposals are solicited from academic institutions and non-profit research organizations in the United States.  All proposals must include foreign collaborations and may not exceed two years. All proposals should focus on addressing agricultural challenges to smallholders and one of the three focus areas: improving agricultural productivity, creating sustainable agricultural systems, or building regional or global trade capacities. All proposals should also utilize the scientific communities’ accumulated knowledge and technologies to help aid in developing “practical” solutions to these challenges. 

U.S. Contribution to FAO Digital Soil Map of the World

A consortium led by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a 30 arc-second raster Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD) in 2009. The database still uses soils data from the FAO – UNESCO Soil Map of the World, published between 1974 and 1978 at a scale of 1:5,000,000, to represent the soils for the U.S.. The consortium has informally invited the U.S. to update the soils information from the U.S.. This database is primarily used for global scale modeling.

North America Node of GlobalSoilMap

GlobalSoilMap.net is a global consortium that has been formed with the aim of making a new digital soil map of the world using state-of-the-art and emerging technologies for soil mapping and predicting soil properties at fine resolution. This new global soil map will be supplemented by interpretation and functionality options that aim to assist better decisions in a range of global issues like food production and hunger eradication, climate change, and environmental degradation. This is an initiative of the Digital Soil Mapping Working Group of the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS). This effort is organized by continent (nodes).  The National Cooperative Soil Survey provides the leadership for the North America Node.

Universal Soil Classification System with International Union of Soil Science

The International Union of Soil Science created a committee in 2010 to develop a Universal Soil Classification System with Jon Hempel, USDA-NRCS as chair and Erika Micheli, Szent Istvan University, Gödöllő, Hungary, as vice-chair.  Activities include: 1) Development of an international team to lead the discussion for the development of the Universal Soil Classification System; 2) Development of task groups to undertake specific projects in support of the Universal Soil Classification System and standards development; 3) Presentations at a variety of scientific conferences on the progress of the working group: 4) Events supporting the development of Soil Taxonomy to meet soil classification needs around the world.