Why we need a Soil Carbon Moonshot
Our proposal for an ambitious, interagency soil carbon research program
by Cristel Zoebisch, senior policy advisor, and Giana Amador, policy director and co-founder
For decades, the US agriculture sector has benefited from robust public research and investment that once established the US as a global leader and helped the sector navigate economic downturns, global competition, and rapid population growth. However, support for agricultural research has stagnated since the early 2000s, while the sector has been left to grapple with intensifying weather extremes and existing economic challenges.
As American farmers and ranchers work on the frontlines of climate change, retooling long-standing practices to build resilience and remain competitive, they need support to make informed changes on their land — now more than ever.
One promising solution can be found in soil carbon sequestration, or the drawdown and storage of ambient CO2 in our agricultural system’s soil. Experts estimate that globally, soils could store up to 5 billion metric tons of CO2 per year, an amount equal to 13% of total annual greenhouse gas emissions. For producers, storing carbon in soil is a pathway to increased revenue, better yields, and strengthened climate resilience.
Despite this potential, there is virtually zero dedicated funding for soil carbon research today, and related efforts across the federal government are fragmented. Soil carbon is gaining momentum with policymakers, private companies, and producers alike, but many knowledge gaps remain — and reaching scale will require strategic investments in research. To meet this challenge and scale soil carbon in a science-driven way, we need an ambitious, coordinated interagency research program: a Soil Carbon Moonshot.
The Soil Carbon Moonshot: Grounding Carbon Storage in Science spells out a major transformation for the agriculture sector that has so far gone unarticulated and underfunded at the federal level: A research agenda steered by a powerful coalition of policymakers, farmers and ranchers, and innovators to catalyze agricultural climate solutions at scale. Recommendations in this report seek to advance the next generation of agricultural climate solutions and support farmers and ranchers in making the best operational decisions for their land, bottom lines, and the climate.
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