Deadline: Aug. 1st
What is the Agriculture Innovation Agenda?
The USDA seeks to stimulate innovations that by 2050 will (1) increase agricultural production by 40%, and (2) reduce the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture by half. Other benchmarks include:
- Reduce food loss and waste by 50% by 2030
- Build landscape resiliency by investing in active forest management and forest restoration through increased Shared Stewardship Agreements with states
- Enhance carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, capitalize on innovative technologies and practices to achieve net reduction of the agricultural sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050
- Improve water quality; reduce nutrient loss by 30% nationally by 2050
Why is SRM interested?
The proposed Agriculture Innovation Agenda has largely neglected to consider the contributions of rangelands to agriculture production in the U.S. Native rangelands cover nearly one third of the total land area of the U.S. and are a major source of forage for livestock production in the western U.S. This industry is dependent upon healthy, resilient rangelands which are renewable resources and sources of water quality and quantity, fish and wildlife habitat, and sinks for the atmospheric carbon dioxide contributing to a warming climate. Significant challenges facing rangeland livestock producers are remaining economically viable due to changing land use, ecological uncertainty, such as invasive species, wildfire, drought, and meeting various regulatory requirements.
If the USDA is to meet its benchmarks for increasing food production and enhancing environmental conditions, the Agriculture Innovation Agenda must include development and promotion of programs that protect productive farm and ranchlands from conversion to other uses that do not prioritize land stewardship. When working ranches cannot stay in business, the sale of those lands to housing or energy development contribute to an overall net loss of the multitude of benefits provided by intact rangelands. Therefore, we recommend innovations such as:
- Funding for coordinated research for activities such as treating invasive annual grasses affecting rangeland productivity and increasing wildfire risk in the U.S. West
- Expanded use of Cooperative Monitoring Agreements to improve efficiency of data collection and useful monitoring metrics between agencies such as USFS and NRCS and landowners, community-based organizations, and contractors
- Ensure livestock production on rangelands is economically viable through, for example, funding for risk management for conservation innovations or other mechanisms for individual ranchers who lack financial flexibility to undertake new practices that enhance rangeland condition and, thereby, the productivity of their operations
- Funding for programs that support ecosystem service markets, ranching systems, and other forms of land management that increase soil organic matter, carbon content, aggregate stability, and water retention to improve overall health and profitability of rangelands
How can SRM members can help?
Public input is sought to identify innovation opportunities and propose approaches for the research needed to best address the goals of the Agriculture Innovation Agenda for the next 10 to 30 years. We urge SRM members to register their comments that the proposed Agriculture Innovation Agenda largely neglects the potential of rangeland livestock production in meeting its food production and environmental conditions goals by 2050 and that the Agenda must include rangeland health indicators. Please submit written comments by August 1, 2020 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
For further information:
Contact John Dyer, (202)720–1542, firstname.lastname@example.org