Regulation Database – Department of Agriculture

Department of Agriculture

Strategic Plan FY 2010-2015

One of four strategic goals is to ensure national forest and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change. Some objectives within this goal are to lead efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, bring all national forests into compliance with a climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy, and reduce wildfire risk.

2010 Climate Change Science Plan

This document describes how climate change should be accounted for in the scientific missions of USDA agencies. It identifies four priority elements: (1) understanding the effects of climate change on natural and managed ecosystems; (2) developing knowledge, institutional models, and tools to enable adaptation; (3) developing knowledge and tools for greenhouse gas mitigation; and (4) providing science-based decision support to USDA agencies and other stakeholders.

2014 Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The USDA published an initial Adaptation Plan in 2012 which contained a high-level vulnerability assessment and further elaborated on the department’s strategic goals with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation. In 2014, USDA published a revised plan which contained an updated vulnerability assessment, strategic goals, and a summary of initial adaptation actions, such as the development of the USDA Regional Climate Hubs.

Strategic Plan FY 2014-2018

This document reiterates the same goals and objectives that were outlined in the 2010-2015 strategic plan, and provides a high-level assessment of implementation (summarizing the same info as in the 2014 adaptation plan). One of the implementing strategies identified in the plan is to “develop tools to quantify the value of ecosystem services, monitor and assess conservation practices effectiveness, and connect producers with market opportunities.”

2015 Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation

In 2011, USDA issued a departmental regulation to integrate climate change adaptation planning and actions into USDA programs, policies, and operations. It was revised in 2015. The revised departmental regulation requires USDA agencies to integrate adaptation planning, implementing actions, and performances metrics into programs, policies, and operations, and to identify areas in which budget adjustment or legal analysis is needed to carry out these mandates.

Strategic Plan FY 2018 – 2022

USDA's strategic plan for fiscal years 2018–2022, issued in May 2018, includes several climate-related objectives, including mitigating wildfire risk and ensuring that lands and watersheds are sustainable, healthy, and productive. 

2021 Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience

On October 7, 2021, twenty-three federal agencies released plans detailing how they will adapt to climate change and increase resilience to climate change impacts. The plans include a variety of resiliency and adaptation measures, including steps to develop a more resilient supply change, to enhance protections for workers and communities, and to increase climate literacy and leadership within Federal agencies. The climate adaptation and resilience plans were previously submitted to and reviewed by the National Climate Task Force, White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, and the Office of Management and Budget. President Biden mandated these plans in his January 27, 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy: 90-Day Progress Report

This report covers recommendations for a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy gathered from public outreach.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge

On September 9, 2021, the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, and Department of Agriculture released a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formally launching an inter-agency Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge. The purpose of the Grand Challenge is “to reduce the cost, enhance the sustainability, and expand the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) that achieves a minimum of 50% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) compared to conventional fuel to meet a goal of supplying sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand by 2050.” The MOU also intends to support a just transition of the energy industry through job creation. Among the inter-agency actions listed in the MOU, the signing agencies agreed to establish a joint, executive-level team to develop a framework for implementing the MOU. This Grand Challenge is one part of the Biden Administration’s goal of increasing the sustainability of American aviation.

USDA Regional Climate Hubs

The Regional Climate Hubs were established in February of 2014 to deliver science-based knowledge, practical information and program support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers to support climate-informed decision-making in light of the increased risks and vulnerabilities associated with a changing climate. These activities further the mission of maintaining and strengthening agricultural production, natural resource management, and rural economic development under increasing climate variability. Key partners in this effort include the public and land grant universities, Cooperative Extension, USDA researchers, the private sector, state, local and regional governments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Interior (DOI) regional climate change experts, and non-profits engaged in providing assistance to landowners.

USDA Climate Hub Assessments: In 2015, USDA and USFS published assessments of climate change vulnerability and adaptation and mitigation strategies for each of the Regional Climate Hubs.

Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

The Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry are USDA’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.

  • Progress Report (2015) (report includes description of and action items for each building block)

Managing Agricultural Land for Greenhouse Gas Mitigation within the United States

This report presents an analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential associated with changes in U.S. agricultural management practices. Marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs) are developed that illustrate how much GHG mitigation various sets of U.S. crop and livestock producers could supply across a schedule of mitigation incentives. Separate MACCs focus on incentivizing specific changes in technologies and practices in animal production systems, cropland systems, land management, and rangeland and pastureland management.

Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory

America’s farm, ranch and forest managers are stewards of the land, and have long recognized the significance of managing soil health, plant productivity and animal nutrition. Conservation practices and other management changes can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase carbon storage while improving soil health, crop or livestock productivity, and resilience to drought and other extreme weather.  This report lays out methods for estimating changes in GHG emissions and carbon storage at a local scale.  The methods in the report will be used to develop user-friendly tools for farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and other USDA stakeholders to help them evaluate the GHG benefits of a wide variety of management practices.

Online Tools for Assessing Carbon Stocks

USDA CarbonScapesThe goal of USDA CarbonScapes is to provide a useful and easy to navigate web map application to educate and answer questions for stakeholders about USDA inventory, modeling, and mapping of terrestrial biosphere carbon across the landscape.

COMET-Farm:  This is a whole farm and ranch carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system. The tool guides you through describing your farm and ranch management practices including alternative future management scenarios. Once complete, a report is generated comparing the carbon changes and greenhouse gas emissions between your current management practices and future scenarios.

COMET-Planner:  This planning tool is intended to provide generalized estimates of the greenhouse gas impacts of conservation practices for initial planning purposes. The tool is accompanied by a companion report that outlines the rationale, approach, and documentation of methods for COMET-Planner.

Funding Announcements

On September 9, 2021, the Department of Agriculture announced that it is investing $464 million to build and improve renewable energy infrastructure while helping rural communities, agricultural producers, and businesses lower energy costs. USDA’s investments will support projects in 48 states and Puerto Rico. $335 million of this funding derives from the Electric Loan Program, and the remaining $129 million derives from the Rural Energy for America Program.

Rural Energy for America Program

USDA's Rural Energy for America Program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.