- On the agriculture side, we need to think about significant investments in science and technology, always considering how we look towards the future.
- We must think about how to use existing programs to their fullest extent. Many great results have been achieved with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
- How can we incentivize climate-smart agriculture on forestry and agriculture working lands? Cover crops, soil health, improved grazing and forestry practices are all examples of where this has been successful. There is a lot we can do in this respect on the conservation and rural development side.
By Cam Petersen, M.S. in Sustainable Food Systems student Our cohort spoke with Robert Bonnie, President Biden’s nominee to be Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, on a sunny Friday, July 23, 2021. The conversation was remote, as things tend to be nowadays, and Robert Bonnie spoke to us from his office at USDA. Bonnie carried himself with the calm demeanor that we’ve all come to expect from individuals hailing from the South -- a credential he solidly holds, growing up on a farm in Kentucky. But he also displayed the signs of someone who is deeply passionate about their subject area, which is a quality that only comes from decades of commitment to a cause. The dialogue opened with a brief introduction on his current predicament as acting Under Secretary. Having not been fully confirmed by the Senate Agriculture Committee, he had been working in limbo, not fully assured of his position, but ever focused on the role. He quickly cited the USDA’s Climate 21 project and the goal that agriculture and forestry could provide 10-20% of the additional sequestration and emissions reductions needed to achieve net-zero emissions in the United States by 2050, and that it would be “hard to get there without thinking about land and both agriculture and forestry.” The first several months of his time as acting Under Secretary had been spent responding to the executive order put in place by the Biden administration in late January, which asked USDA to conduct outreach to the agriculture and forestry industries about how the agency can best advance climate-smart agriculture policies. This led to the release of a report in May on a Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy that goes through numerous policy interventions, of which Bonnie broke down into three parts: