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Friday, June 12, 2015

PRESIDENT TAKES ACTION TO SUPPORT RURAL AMERICAN JOBS WHILE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE
FACT SHEET: Administration Announces Actions to Bring Jobs and Clean Energy to Rural America

Financing Hundreds Of Projects To Reduce Carbon Pollution In Rural Communities

President Obama is committed to combating climate change to protect future generations while supporting a strong rural economy. Climate change can no longer be seen as a distant threat. It is already affecting rural communities across the country and putting homes, businesses, and vital infrastructure at risk.

Farmers and ranchers face devastating impacts – from severe floods to extreme heat and drought to increased challenges due to wildfires, disease and pests. These impacts threaten the lives and livelihoods of Americans in rural communities.

That is why the President is taking action now. The sooner we act, the more we can do to protect rural America, especially the areas that are the most vulnerable. By investing in renewable energy and supporting climate-smart agricultural practices, rural communities and businesses can help slow the effects of climate change while creating jobs and growing the economy. To continue down this track, today the Administration is making these announcements:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing a new investment in nearly 550 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the country totaling nearly $7 million in funding through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Today, Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit the Snake River Brewing Company, in Jackson, Wyoming, one of the REAP awardees that received nearly $14,000 in funding to install a solar panels on their business, which is estimated to save the brewery nearly $1,200 on their electricity bill each year.  Since President Obama took office, USDA has helped thousands of rural small businesses, farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines by investing in renewable energy systems and energy efficiency solutions, including:

Awarding $545 million through REAP for more than 8,800 projects nationwide to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency upgrades, which will save more than 7 billion kWh, enough energy to power 660,000 American homes annually. In fact, the number of farms using a renewable energy producing system since 2007 has more than doubled.

Financing more than $1.7 billion to help rural electricity providers reduce carbon pollution, bringing significant cost savings, and improve the quality of life for those living and working in rural America.

Companies across the U.S. understand that reducing carbon pollution and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. To highlight leadership in the agricultural sector, today the White House is hosting a roundtable discussion with businesses and organizations that are already taking action to cut emissions and strengthen the rural economy. Participants include:

Cargill
The Coca-Cola Company
Environmental Defense Fund
Field to Market
General Mills
Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
Monsanto
National Corn Growers Association
Syngenta
The Fertilizer Institute
Kellogg Company
The Nature Conservancy
Unilever
United Soybean Board
Walmart
World Wildlife Fund

Building on their earlier progress, several businesses and organizations are also announcing new commitments to improve agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water quality, and improve water efficiency:
Unilever is pledging to source 100% of its soy (approximately 1 million acres) in the U.S. sustainably by 2017, and all other raw agriculture commodities by 2020.  Utilizing Field to Market, Unilever will work with farmers to gather data about their fields and farming practices and then co-solve with them to implement changes to farming practices that promote reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, working with the Conservation Technology Information Center in Iowa, Unilever was recently awarded $1 million in cost share by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to encourage growers to utilize cover crops to improve water quality.

Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy commit to harmonizing metrics to assess the sustainability of feed production, maximize interoperability among tools used to inform sustainable practices, advance scientific research and communication, and jointly convene the supply chain to address sustainability challenges in November 2015.

Coca-Cola Company is committing to rapidly expand the application of the Field to Market program and its data-driven tool to quantify water use, fertilizer use, energy use, and greenhouse emissions. By the end of 2015, Coca-Cola will aim to engage farmers representing 250,000 acres, and up to 1 million acres by 2020s—equating to roughly 50% of the company’s global corn supply – to implement this commitment.

National Corn Growers Association is committing to actively participate in Field to Market and administer the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), , a project to make agriculture more sustainable through improved soil management, which is committed to expanding the current SHP Demonstration Farm Network from 40 to 100 by 2018. The main goal of the SHP is to demonstrate the contributions improved soil health makes to increased agricultural productivity, profitability, and environmental sustainability outcomes through the adoption of best management practices (BMPs) such as conservation tillage, cover crops and advanced nutrient management.

Walmart has committed to joint agricultural partnerships with 17 suppliers, cooperatives, and service providers on 23 million acres of land in the U.S. and Canada, with the potential to reduce 11 MMT of GHGs by 2020.   Walmart is committed to working with packers, feed yards, and ranchers to ensure that 15% of their U.S. beef supply is sourced with environmental criteria by 2023. In September 2014, Walmart announced that they will work with their suppliers and other partners in the food supply chain to cut greenhouse gas emissions, better conserve water, and increase yields as part of their Climate Smart Agriculture platform. Over the next ten years, Walmart will work to gain increasing visibility into key metrics regarding yields, water usage and GHGs in food supply chains. Walmart is now working with suppliers, representing ~70% of food sales, to report their yield, water and GHG footprints all the way back to the farm.

PepsiCo, a global food and beverage company, has committed to expanding its Sustainable Farming Initiative to 500,000 acres of farmland used by North American agricultural suppliers by year-end 2016.  PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Initiative provides a comprehensive framework to help meet the goals set out in PepsiCo’s Sustainable Agriculture Policy, providing critical support to farmers as they seek to address climate change and other key issues of sustainable farming. PepsiCo has committed to work in the U.S. and other global markets to engage growers of corn, oats, potato, and oranges to increase the utilization of sustainable farming practices, particularly in the areas of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The Nature Conservancy commits to help reduce nutrient loading in the Mississippi Basin by 25 percent by 2025 by seeking and developing new funding resources to assist farmers and local communities, partnering with the private industry to build a new conservation force of champions and advisors to farmers, and targeting resources to the highest priority areas.

Environmental Defense Fund is committing to work with all actors in the commodity crop supply chain – from corporations to farmers - to get improved fertilizer and soil health practices adopted across the majority of U.S. commodity acreage and strategically-placed wetland filters on 2-3% of the acres in the Upper Mississippi River Basin by 2030.  Combined, these changes will result in the 45% reduction in nutrient loading needed to achieve water quality restoration goals for the Gulf of Mexico, restore drinking water systems and deliver an estimated 50 million metric tons in avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, EDF will work with food companies, retailers, and grain buyers to support development of strong sustainability goals and connect these goals to effective programming on the ground with farmers. Existing collaborations including work with Walmart, Murphy Brown, Campbell Soup, and General Mills, among others.

BUILDING ON PROGRESS

Today’s actions build on a series of steps the Administration is taking to reduce the dangerous levels of carbon pollution that are driving climate change, scale up financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and create jobs in rural America including:

In April 2015, USDA released a Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry framework to support farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in their response to climate change. Through this comprehensive set of voluntary programs and initiatives, USDA expects to reduce net emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by over 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2e) per year – about 2% of economy-wide net greenhouse emissions – by 2025. That’s the equivalent of taking 25 million cars off the road, or offsetting the emissions produced by powering nearly 11 million homes last year.

USDA recently made an additional 800,000 acres of highly environmentally sensitive land eligible for enrollment in its Conservation Reserve Program. USDA will accept new offers to participate in CRP under a general signup to be held Dec. 1, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016. For 30 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has supported farmers and ranchers as they continue to be good stewards of land and water. This initiative has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

USDA recently announced that it will invest up to $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership to support the infrastructure needed to make more renewable fuel options available to American consumers, which will help to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependence on foreign oil, give businesses and consumers more energy options and create well-paying American jobs. Specifically, USDA will administer competitive grants to match funding for state-led efforts to test and evaluate innovative and comprehensive approaches to market higher blends of renewable fuel, such as E15 and E85. States that are able to provide greater than a one-to-one ratio in funding will receive higher consideration.

In 2014, USDA established a series of regional Climate Hubs, located in California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico, to serve as a source of regional data and information for hazard and adaptation planning in the agriculture and forest sectors. The Hubs address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts, and work with land managers to translate and connect relevant science and research to address on-the-ground information needs.

Through the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, and the Conservation Stewardship Program, USDA is working with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to implement conservation practices that have reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by over 360 million metric tons since 2009, or approximately 60 million metric tons per year. That is the equivalent of taking 12.6 million cars off the road for a year; or 6.7 million gallons of gasoline consumed; or more than 5.4 million home's energy use for a year.

The great American outdoors is also an important aspect of rural communities, providing both an invaluable national treasure and a critical resource for the tourism industry.  In 2014, a record 293 million National Park visitors spent $15.7 billion in communities around National Parks, providing a nearly $30 billion benefit to the U.S. economy and supporting 277,000 jobs.

Last October, USDA funded its first two loans under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program. North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, Inc. will use a loan of $4.6 million to fund geothermal and air source installations, energy efficiency lightning, and weatherization measures, including Energy Star® windows and doors, insulation, efficient water heaters, and roofing. Financing will reduce energy costs for Arkansas consumers and improve the services within Arkansas Electric's service territory.  North Carolina's Roanoke Electric Membership Corporation will use a loan of $6 million to finance improvements to HVAC Systems, appliance replacements, and building envelope improvements for an average of 200 residential energy efficiency upgrades per year over four years. These loans will help reduce energy costs and improve the services within Roanoke's service territory. Roanoke's service territory includes both poverty and out-migration counties.

USDA, in partnership with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, completed the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, Voluntary Actions to Reduce Methane Emissions and Increase Energy Independence, which identifies voluntary actions that can be taken to reduce methane emissions through the use of biogas systems and outlines strategies to overcome barriers to a robust biogas industry in the United States and increase the use of biogas to help meet our renewable energy goals. Already, USDA has funded 93 anaerobic digesters to help farm operations produce electricity from captured methane. Thanks to a partnership with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to reduce greenhouse emissions across the supply chain, most of these projects are at dairy operations.

Through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, USDA has since 2009 provided $610.9 million in funding to support climate change research by USDA scientists and partners at land-grant universities. USDA has also invested $332 million to accelerate research on clean renewable energy ranging from genomic research on bioenergy feedstock crops, to development of biofuel conversion processes and cost-benefit estimates of renewable energy production.