U.S., 20 other nations team to research greenhouse gas emissions from farms

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, December 17, 2009

The United States will join 20 other countries in a "research alliance" to better understand -- and prevent -- greenhouse-gas emissions from farms, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday.

Vilsack, in Copenhagen for the United Nations-sponsored global climate talks, said the Agriculture Department will increase its spending on farm-emissions research by $90 million over four years, to a total of $130 million.

The research, Vilsack said, will be shared with the other countries in the alliance.

Farm-related greenhouse-gas emissions are produced by the burning of crop residues, methane released from decaying manure and the digestive tracts of cattle, and gases emanating from fertilized soil. Together, agricultural sources account for about 6 percent of all U.S. emissions and 14 percent of emissions worldwide, U.S. figures show.

The department said the research money would be used to find new ways of tending fields and treating animal manure, to reduce their emissions.

Other countries involved in the research alliance are Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam, a news release said.

The statement came a day after the Agriculture Department announced an agreement with an association of dairy farmers intended to create a 25 percent reduction in emissions from dairy farms by 2020. The department said the agreement would involve efforts to increase the use of manure "digesters," which use the methane produced by decaying waste to generate electricity.

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