Agriculture and Forestry: Part of the Climate Solution
USDA's Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry
On May 12, 2016, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack released a roadmap for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry - the Department's framework for helping farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners respond to climate change. The effort relies on voluntary, incentive-based conservation, forestry, and energy programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and expand renewable energy production in the agricultural and forestry sectors.
The roadmap outlines progress, implementation plans, and case studies (PDF, 12.7MB) for each of the following 10 building blocks:
- Soil Health
- Nitrogen Stewardship
- Livestock Partnerships
- Conservation of Sensitive Lands
- Grazing and Pasture Lands
- Private Forest Growth and Retention
- Stewardship of Federal Forests
- Promotion of Wood Products
- Urban Forests
- Energy Generation and Efficiency
READ: Building Blocks Implementation Plan and Progress Report (PDF, 11.3MB, May 2016)
Through this initiative, USDA is committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon stored in forests and soils by over 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2025. That amount is equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road, or offsetting the emissions produced by powering nearly 11 million homes.
The building blocks are significant not only within the United States, but also internationally. In December 2015, more than 180 countries agreed to a new framework to reduce global GHG emissions and enhance GHG sinks. The Paris Agreement, adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, builds on the U.S.'s commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
By developing these building blocks, USDA and its partners have demonstrated that agriculture and forests can play a significant role in helping the U.S. meet its commitment. In turn, the U.S. is modeling practices and strategies that can be applied by nations worldwide to address emissions from the land sector while also meeting the world's needs for food, fiber, and energy.
USDA has a long history of cooperative conservation and partnerships with farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners. The principles that have guided USDA's cooperative conservation efforts also apply to each of these building blocks, and actions taken through this initiative will be:
Voluntary and incentive-based: Farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners are stewards of the land. USDA has a track record of successful conservation though voluntary programs designed to provide technical assistance for resource management. These efforts fit within USDA's approach of cooperative conservation.
Focused on multiple economic and environmental benefits: To be successful, the proposed actions should provide economic and environmental benefits through efficiency improvements, co-benefits, improved yields, or reduced risks.
Designed to meet the needs of producers: This strategy is designed for working farms, ranches, forests, and production systems. USDA will encourage actions that enhance productivity and improve efficiency.
Cooperative and focused on building partnerships: USDA will seek out opportunities to leverage efforts by industry, farm groups, conservation organizations, municipalities, public and private investment products, Tribes, and States.
Measured to evaluate progress: USDA is committed to establishing consistent quantitative goals and objectives for each building block and will track and report on progress. USDA will continue to use internationally recognized measures and will enhance the accuracy and precision of these metrics.
This strategy will build on the good work producers are already doing to improve conservation outcomes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Profiles of farmers taking leadership to reduce emissions while improving their bottom line are below:
- Jamie Scott, Kosciusko County, Indiana (PDF, 461KB)
- Donn Branton, Le Roy, New York (PDF, 576KB)
- Bob Giacomini, Marin County, California (PDF, 521KB)
Building Blocks Announcement: April 23, 2015
Here is audio of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to the President, holding a news conference in East Lansing, Michigan. Mr. Deese began by discussing the USDA initiative.
- Press Release: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senior White House Advisor Brian Deese Announce Partnerships with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change (April 23, 2015)
- Video: Secretary Vilsack on the USDA Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry (April 21, 2015)
- Transcript: Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary Vilsack on Rollout of USDA's Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry Strategy at Michigan State University (April 23, 2015)
- Archived Webcast: Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry
To learn more about USDA's climate change activities, visit the USDA Climate Change Program Office.