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Virginia farmers contribute to agriculture emissions falling to lowest level in a decade

RICHMOND, VA—American agriculture reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2% from 2021 to 2022—the largest decrease of any economic sector. This was reported in the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2022.



In total, agriculture is responsible for under 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.



In this study’s data set, the largest source of agricultural emissions came from soil management—just over 5% of U.S. emissions overall. However, crop cultivation emissions totaled 319 million metric tons in 2022, down 1.7% from 2021.


“This would include fertilizer applications and tillage practices, which saw a 7.2 million metric ton, or 2.4%, decrease from 2021 to 2022,” noted Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation director of national affairs. “While soil management can lead to emissions of carbon dioxide, it also can serve to sequester it when conservation practices like no-till farming and cover crops are used.”


These conservation practices are particularly common in Virginia where widespread voluntary adoption of agricultural best management practices has helped farmers meet Chesapeake Bay water quality goals.


“And that has a co-benefit of lowering emissions,” Rowe added.


To reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and offset GHG emissions, carbon also is trapped in soils through other carbon sink activities. Practices include forest cultivation, forestry management decreasing forest fire risk or degradation, increasing below-ground plant matter, and wetlands or grasslands management.



Livestock emissions were down 2.1% from 2021. American Farm Bureau economists say this is likely attributed to smaller livestock inventories due to drought.


Livestock contribute 4.3% to total U.S. emissions, and Virginia farmers are doing their part to continue driving that number down, Rowe observed.


“For livestock, increasing the number of anaerobic digesters, pasture management and improved nutrient management and feed efficiency helps reduce emissions,” he said.


Fuel combustion utilized by the agricultural sector is down 1.2% from 2021, making up just 0.64% of total emissions.


In total, agriculture is responsible for under 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.


The drop in agricultural emissions highlights the success of voluntary and market-based programs that support farmer efforts in sustainable agriculture practices, said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.


“The latest numbers should also serve as inspiration to lawmakers who can build on this progress by passing a farm bill, which not only provides a safety net for farmers, but also helps them meet sustainability goals.”


The largest U.S. emissions source was the transportation sector, representing 28% of total emissions, declining 0.2% from the prior year. Next, electricity generation represented 25% of total emissions, dropping 0.4%. The industrial sector, including iron, steel and cement production, represented 23% of all emissions, down 0.2%. The commercial and residential sectors represented 14% of all U.S. emissions, increasing 4.8%.

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