American agriculture proves beneficial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

COLORADO— A new analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency finds that American agriculture not only minimally contributes to overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but the sector also sequestered more carbon in 2020 than the year before. The 2020 Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks report provides an annual accounting estimate of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions sources in the U.S. as well as estimates of the amount of carbon trapped in forests, vegetation, and soil. 

The latest EPA report shows that agriculture represents just 10% of total U.S. emissions when compared to other economic sectors. Overall ag-related emissions fell by at least 4.3%, and emissions from agricultural soil management were reduced by 8.4%. Overall, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased from 2019 to 2020 by 10.6%. 

The report demonstrates the power of agriculture in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and how important it is that farmers and ranchers are allowed to play a role in helping to further capture emissions through food production. The report also emphasizes how voluntary, market- and incentive-based strategies to implement conservation practices can help farmers and ranchers continue to implement conservation strategies. 

“These findings show just how dedicated American farmers and ranchers are to making commitments in sustainability while we continue to produce the nation’s food,” said Colorado Farm Bureau Federation Board member Nathan Weathers. “Voluntary, market-based incentives allow us as farmers and ranchers to do our part capturing more greenhouse gases while simultaneously meeting the ever-increasing demand for food.” 

In Colorado, new voluntary programs to help improve soil health, coupled with existing federal conservation programs are helping to centralize and expand production practices that are good for the environment and good for farmers. 

In addition to a more than 4% decrease in agricultural emissions from 2019 to 2020, the data also shows that productivity on American farms continues to increase. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated indices of farm output, input, and total factor productivity, farmers and ranchers are producing 2.78 times more in output per unit of input they use.