Pingree introduces net-zero ag bill that supports biogas energy

By Erin Voegele | February 28, 2020

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has introduced legislation that sets a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in U.S. agriculture by 2040. Anaerobic digestion technology would play a part in reaching that goal.

According information posted to Congress.gov, the bill, titled the “Agriculture Resilience Act,” or H.R. 5861, was introduced on Feb. 12 and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, along with the Committees on Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Reform, and House Administration. To date, no cosponsors have signed on in support of the bill.

Pingree released a statement on Feb. 26 announcing introduction of the legislation.

“Farming has always been a risky business, but unpredictable, extreme weather patterns are creating immense challenges that threaten our nation’s food production and jeopardize the livelihood of American farmers,” Pingree said in that statement. “Last year, farmers were unable to plant 19.6 million acres of crops due to record-breaking rainfall. We must be proactive to keep farmers on the land and in business.”

“The Agriculture Resilience Act is designed as a roadmap to sequester more carbon in the soil and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by supporting farmers where they are. We need to empower farmers with the best available science and provide a range of conservation tools, because what works for one farmer in Maine may not work for another in Iowa or Georgia,” Pingree continued. “I have set an ambitious but achievable goal: to reduce agricultural emissions by 50 percent before 2030 and make this segment of our economy net-zero by 2040. Challenges of this scale demand bold solutions and, unlike other industries, agriculture has a unique opportunity to draw down massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.”

According to Pingree, agriculture activities currently contribute 8.4 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. To reach net-zero emissions, the bill focuses on six policy area goals, including increasing research, improving soil health, protecting existing farmland, supporting pasture-based livestock systems, boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives, and reducing food waste. Anaerobic digestion can help meet goals for several of those policy areas.

Under the goal of supporting pasture-based livestock systems, the legislation would create a new alternative manure management program to support an array of livestock methane management strategies. Regarding on-farm energy initiatives, the bill would increase funding for the Rural Energy for America Program, direct USDA to study dual-use renewable energy and cropping or livestock systems, and move the AgSTAR program to the UDSA’s National Resources Conservation Service to provide technical assistance to farmers interested in reducing methane emissions through anaerobic digestion. Under the goal of reducing food waste, the bill would also increase federal support for composting and anaerobic digestion food waste-to-energy projects.

Additional information is available on Pingree’s website.