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Obama Administration Calls on Ag to Cut Methane Emissions

Obama Administration Calls on Ag to Cut Methane Emissions

Part of the Climate Action Plan, President Obama lays out a proposal to curb agricultural methane emissions

President Obama on Friday announced another phase of his administration's Climate Action Plan, this time focusing on emissions contributions from methane.

Participants in the plan, the President said, would be landfills, coal mines, oil and gas and agriculture. The strategy summarizes the sources of methane emissions, commits to new steps to cut emissions of this potent greenhouse gas, and outlines the Administration's efforts to improve the measurement of these emissions.

The Administration says the strategy also builds on progress to date and will use "cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards" to complete emissions goals.

Part of the Climate Action Plan, President Obama lays out a proposal to curb agricultural methane emissions using methane digesters and other voluntary tools. (USDA photo)

Much of the focus in agriculture is on the dairy industry. The President cited a partnership with the dairy industry, the USDA, EPA and DOE that will jointly release a "Biogas Roadmap" outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.

Related: $1.6 Million Project Studies Livestock GHG Emissions

According to the White House, emissions of methane make up nearly 9% of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States.

Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11%, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions, the White House said.

Dairy and agriculture groups supported the measures in statements Friday, supporting the President's consideration of agriculture's role in helping to mitigate emissions.


"This is great news for America's dairy farm families of all sizes across the country," said Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "For decades, dairy farmers have demonstrated a commitment to environmental stewardship, and adopting new practices and technologies along the path to continuous improvement. Our work continues."

Related: USDA Research To Study Effects of Climate on Dairy, Beef Cattle

Also supporting the plan was the National Farmers Union. NFU Senior Vice President of Programs Chandler Goule said some ag technologies, like methane digesters, are underutilized but can significantly reduce emissions.

"The strategy’s voluntary on-farm methane reduction opportunities, supported by financial and technical assistance, will add to farmers’ bottom lines and support rural economies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Goule said.

According to a fact sheet on the plan, putting methane to use can "support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air."

"When fully implemented, the policies in the methane strategy will improve public health and safety while recovering otherwise wasted energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants," the plan said.

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