[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 34 (Friday, February 18, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 9534-9537]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-3731]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE


Development of Technical Guidelines and Scientific Methods for 
Quantifying GHG Emissions and Carbon Sequestration for Agricultural and 
Forestry Activities

AGENCY: Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

ACTION: Notice of project undertaken to develop technical guidelines 
and scientific methods for quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 
and carbon sequestration at the practice-, process-, farm- and entity-
scales.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: Section 2709 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 
states that: USDA shall prepare technical guidelines that outline 
science-based methods to measure the carbon benefits from conservation 
and land management activities. In accordance with Section 2709 of the 
2008 Farm Bill, USDA is developing technical guidelines and science-
based methods to quantify greenhouse gas sources and sinks from the 
agriculture and forest sectors at the entity-, process-, and practice-
scale. USDA intends to develop guidelines and methods that are 
verifiable and that demonstrate scientific rigor, transparency, 
scalability, and usability. USDA anticipates that the methods will be 
used by farmers and by USDA to improve management practices and to 
identify actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon 
sequestration. The guidelines and methods could be used by farmers, 
ranchers, and forest owners to facilitate their participation in 
voluntary State and regional systems. In order to make the guidelines 
and methods most useful to a broad audience, a Web-based, user-friendly 
tool will be developed following the drafting of the guidelines and 
methods.
    In carrying out this project, USDA will consult with Federal and 
State government agencies; farm, ranch, and forest producers; as well 
as other interested parties. At the Federal level, this consultation 
will minimize duplication of efforts and ensure consistency of the 
products with other U.S. Government inventory and estimation 
approaches. USDA anticipates that after they are developed, reviewed, 
and published, the Technical Guidelines, combined with the user-

[[Page 9535]]

friendly tool for GHG quantification, will assist farmers, ranchers, 
and forest owners in improving management practices and identifying 
actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon 
sequestration, and could facilitate their participation in voluntary 
State and regional systems.
    Comments received under this notice will be used in determining the 
scope of the effort, strengthening the proposed project approach, 
ensuring that relevant information and data are considered, improving 
the rigor of the guidelines, and enhancing the usability of the 
methods. USDA is interested in your comments in response to the 
numbered topics, categories and questions shown in the supplementary 
information section of this notice. When submitting your responses, 
please categorize your comments as per the section number designations 
noted. Be specific and concise. All information received will be 
included in the public docket without change and made available online 
at http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided.
    Responses to this notice are not offers and cannot be accepted by 
the Government to form a binding contract or issue a grant. Information 
obtained as a result of this request may be used by the government for 
program planning on a non-attribution basis. Do not include any 
information that might be considered proprietary or confidential.

DATES: Responses to this notice should be submitted by 11:59 pm Eastern 
Time on April 19, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Responses to this notice must be submitted electronically 
through the regulations.gov portal at http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site is an ``anonymous access'' system, which 
means USDA will not know your identity or contact information unless 
you provide it in the body of your comment. If you are unable to submit 
your responses through the Web portal, then consider these alternative 
delivery methods:
     Via e-mail to techguide@oce.usda.gov;
     Via fax to 202-401-1176; or,
     Via hand or courier delivery to Marlen Eve, USDA Climate 
Change Program Office, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 4407 South 
Bldg, Washington, DC 20250.
    Responses submitted through e-mail, fax or courier will be recorded 
in full, including any identity and contact information.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Any questions about the content of 
this request should be sent to Marlen Eve, USDA Climate Change Program 
Office, via E-mail techguide@oce.usda.gov, Telephone 202-401-0979, or 
Fax 202-401-1176. Additional information on this request and the 
project can be found at http://www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/techguide.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Climate Change Program Office (CCPO) 
operates within the Office of the Chief Economist at USDA and functions 
as the Department-wide coordinator of agriculture, rural and forestry-
related climate change program and policy issues facing USDA. The CCPO 
ensures that USDA is a source of objective, analytical assessments of 
the effects of climate change and proposed response strategies. This 
project addresses the need for a scientifically sound, Department-wide 
guideline for quantifying GHG emissions and carbon sequestration at the 
farm- and entity-scale. The products developed by this project will be 
useful in assessing the carbon and GHG related environmental service 
benefits of various agricultural and forestry management practices and 
technologies. Supplementary information on the project is included 
below.
    1. Project scope. USDA is embarking on an effort to create a 
``stand alone'' set of GHG inventory guidelines that builds upon 
existing inventory efforts such as the Department of Energy's Voluntary 
Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program 1605(b) Guidelines, with an aim of 
providing simple, transparent and robust inventory and reporting tools. 
As much as is possible, the guidelines, methods, and reporting tools 
developed in this project will utilize and extend data and tools 
currently available publically. The guidelines and methods are not 
intended as an addition to or replacement of any current Federal GHG 
reporting systems or requirements. The guidelines will be prepared for 
direct greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration from 
agricultural and forestry processes. USDA does not plan to develop 
technical guidelines for indirect greenhouse gas emissions/
sequestration, or address issues related to crediting reductions such 
as additionality or leakage under this effort. The guidelines being 
developed by USDA will be used within the Department and by farmers, 
ranchers, and forest land owners, and will be made publicly available. 
To ensure the project deliverables are of benefit to the widest 
possible set of stakeholders (including USDA, other Federal agencies, 
private landowners, private and public GHG registries, NGO's, private 
industry, policy-makers and others) the process of developing the 
guidelines, methods, and reporting tools will emphasize scientific 
rigor, transparency, internal consistency, and reducing uncertainty. We 
anticipate that the guidelines will need to be reviewed and may need to 
be amended before being adopted by other agencies or public or private 
registries. Specific potential uses of the project deliverables include 
aiding: (1) USDA in assessing GHG and carbon sequestration increases 
and decreases resulting from current and future conservation programs 
and practices; (2) USDA and others in evaluating and improving national 
and regional GHG inventory efforts; and (3) landowners, NGOs, and other 
groups assessing increases and decreases in GHG emissions and carbon 
sequestration associated with changes in land management. The project 
is planned for completion within the next three years.
    Specifically, USDA requests comments on:
    1.1 How may USDA best improve upon existing greenhouse gas 
estimation guidelines for the agriculture and forestry sectors, while 
at the same time simplifying input requirements and enhancing the ease 
of use for individuals and entities?
    1.2 USDA intends to develop a standard set of methods for practice-
, process-, farm- and entity-scale inventories which could provide a 
technical basis for improved methods for current voluntary State and 
regional systems. Are there specific areas where a USDA guideline would 
be most useful to current State and regional systems? Are there 
limitations to using the proposed quantification tools in the context 
of State and regional systems?
    2. Objectives. The guidelines will result in a methodology for an 
integrated emissions inventory at the entity scale for all agricultural 
(crop and livestock) and forest management activities, including (but 
not limited to) those listed below:
2.1 Cropland Agriculture
    2.1.1 Crop, residue and soil management practices and technologies 
to increase carbon sequestration and reduce nitrous oxide emissions on 
mineral and cultivated wetland soils, including tillage systems, crop 
rotations, nutrient management, fertilizer technologies, liming, water 
management, cover crops, agroforestry, wetland restoration, residue 
removal and alternatives to biomass burning.

[[Page 9536]]

    2.1.2 Rice cultivation practices and technologies to reduce methane 
emissions, including improved water table management, cultivation and 
fertilizer management.
    2.1.3 Are there specialty crops where specific changes in 
management can greatly reduce GHG emissions or increase carbon 
sequestration that should be considered to enhance completeness and 
comprehensiveness of the guidelines, estimation and reporting tools?
    2.1.4 Are there additional cropland activities, management 
practices or technologies to be accounted for to enhance completeness 
and comprehensiveness of the guidelines, estimation and reporting 
tools?
2.2 Animal Agriculture
    2.2.1 Management practices and technologies to reduce methane 
emissions from enteric fermentation, including dietary modification, 
additives, feeding management, and reproductive management (genetic 
selection, gender differences, etc.).
    2.2.2 Grazing land management practices and technologies to 
increase carbon sequestration and reduce nitrous oxide emissions, 
including rotational grazing and improved forage management.
    2.2.3 Manure management practices and technologies to reduce 
methane and nitrous oxide emissions, including digesters, lagoon 
management, land application practices, and composting.
    2.2.4 Are there additional grazing land and animal agriculture 
activities, management practices or technologies to be accounted for to 
enhance completeness and comprehensiveness of the guidelines, 
estimation and reporting tools?
2.3 Forests and Afforestation
    2.3.1 Afforestation practices and technologies to increase carbon 
sequestration.
    2.3.2 Forest management practices and technologies to reduce GHG 
emissions or increase carbon sequestration, including stand thinning, 
restoration, fertilization, and species selection.
    2.3.3 Agroforestry practices and technologies to increase carbon 
sequestration through windbreaks, riparian buffers and silvopasture.
    2.3.4 Forest preservation to reduce the risk of GHG emissions from 
fire, pests and disease.
    2.3.5 Wood products management to reduce waste, increase product 
longevity and reduce the risk of GHG emissions from fire or decay.
    2.3.6 Are there additional forest activities, management practices, 
equipment or technologies to be considered to enhance completeness and 
comprehensiveness of the guidelines, estimation and reporting tools?
    The methods and tools will quantify all significant emissions and 
sinks associated with the management activities, thereby creating a 
standardized way to document changes in emissions and carbon 
sequestration resulting from conservation efforts and changing land and 
forest management practices. We envision the methods and tools being 
especially useful to USDA in evaluating the GHG-related environmental 
services benefits of conservation and renewable energy programs.
    2.4 Are there sources of information relevant to the objectives of 
this project which can be made available to the author teams? If so, 
please provide this information or the name and contact details for the 
correspondent.
    2.5 Are there opportunities to reduce GHG emissions and increase 
carbon sequestration in the agriculture and forestry sectors that 
should be reflected in the methods?
    2.6 USDA intends to rely on engineering calculations, models, and 
observations as primary methodological approaches. How can USDA balance 
rigor while maintaining broad applicability, national consistency, and 
user friendliness?
    2.7 What models and tools currently exist for farm- or entity- 
scale GHG inventory and reporting, and how might they be useful to the 
current project objectives? For each model noted, provide a source 
citation for information on the model.
    3. Criteria. There are several key criteria that USDA will rely on 
in preparing the GHG guidelines, including the following:
    3.1 Transparency means that the assumptions and methodologies used 
for an inventory should be clearly explained to facilitate replication 
and assessment of the inventory by users of the reported information. 
The transparency of inventories is fundamental to the success of the 
process for the communication and consideration of information.
    3.2 Consistency means that the methods used to generate inventory 
estimates should be internally consistent in all its elements and the 
estimates should be consistent with other years. An inventory is 
consistent if the same methodologies are used for the base and all 
subsequent years and if consistent data sets are used to estimate 
emissions or removals from sources or sinks. Consistency is an 
important consideration in merging differing estimation techniques from 
diverse technologies and management practices.
    3.3 Comparability requires that the estimates of emissions and 
sequestration being reported by one entity are comparable to the 
estimates being reported by others. For this purpose, entities should 
use common methodologies and formats for estimating and reporting 
inventories. Comparability is an important consideration in determining 
whether the guidelines specifies one method (for any technology or 
management practice) or allows users to select from a menu of methods.
    3.4 Completeness means that an inventory covers all sources and 
sinks, as well as all greenhouse gases. Completeness also means full 
coverage of sources and sinks under the control of the entity. 
Completeness is an important consideration to be balanced with ease of 
use in reporting appropriately for an entity that may have a minor 
activity or an activity with severely limited data availability.
    3.5 Accuracy is a relative measure of the exactness of an emission 
or removal estimate. Estimates should be accurate in the sense that 
they are systematically neither over nor under true emissions or 
removals, as far as can be judged, and that uncertainties are reduced 
as far as practicable.
    3.6 Cost effectiveness is a measure of the relative costs and 
benefits of additional efforts to improve inventory estimates or reduce 
uncertainty.
    3.7 Ease of use is a measure of the complexity of the user 
interface and underlying data requirements.
    3.8 Are these appropriate criteria by which to formulate GHG 
estimation and reporting guidelines, methods and tools? Are there other 
criteria that should also be considered?
    3.9 To the extent that there are tradeoffs, which criteria are more 
important than others in ensuring the usefulness of the project 
products for entity-scale estimation and reporting?
    4. Expected outcomes and products. The project is expected to yield 
the following products.
    4.1 A review of techniques currently in use for estimating carbon 
stocks and fluxes and GHG emissions from agricultural and forestry 
activities;
    4.2 A technical guidelines document outlining the approach or 
approaches to conducting a farm-, ranch-, or forest-scale GHG 
estimation;
    4.3 Specific methods for each source/sink category that are 
designed

[[Page 9537]]

to be reliable and consistent with national inventory efforts;
    4.4 A quantification where possible of uncertainties in estimation 
at the entity scale; and
    4.5 A user-friendly tool that integrates multiple sources of 
entity-scale data to facilitate farm-, ranch-, and forest-scale 
quantification of greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration in a 
manner consistent with the methods and technical guidelines.
    Timeline. The project is planned for completion over the next three 
years. Implementation of the project will include development of the 
draft guidelines and methods, technical and peer review, development of 
estimation and reporting tools and associated documentation, beta 
testing, solicitation of public comment, and publication of the final 
guidelines document as well as the estimation and reporting tools.
    USDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national 
origin, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or disability. 
Additionally, discrimination on the basis of political beliefs and 
marital or family status is also prohibited by statutes enforced by 
USDA (not all prohibited bases apply to all programs). Persons with 
disabilities who require alternate means for communication of program 
information (braille, large print, audio tape, etc.) should contact the 
USDA's Target Center at (202) 720-2000 (voice and TDD). USDA is an 
equal opportunity provider and employer.

Joseph Glauber,
Chief Economist.
[FR Doc. 2011-3731 Filed 2-17-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-38-P