On 28th February 2024, the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a new report that concludes that more than half of US federal funding for “climate-smart” agriculture goes to farming practices that are unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and even could increase them.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives $3bn to farmers who practice “climate-smart” agriculture, but roughly $1.9bn of it is being spent on practices that experts say are not helping to combat the current climate crisis. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is adding $8.45bn into “climate-smart” EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) practices between 2023 and 2026, the USDA’s largest conservation program designed to promote eco-friendly farming. However, many of these initiatives do not encourage the switch from animal agriculture to plant-based agriculture, so their positive impact would be much lower than they could have been if such a switch had been promoted.

Anne Schechinger, an agricultural economist who authored the EWG report, said to the Guardian, “A lot of that money will end up going to practices that don’t actually have proven climate benefits…There’s not a lot outside of these federal programs that are going to help farmers reduce their emissions. So if this money isn’t going to the right practices, then agriculture as a whole in the United States is not going to reduce their emissions.”

Some of the funded practices increase greenhouse gas emissions, such as the construction of animal waste storage facilities that can pollute nearby waterways. According to the report, between 2017 and 2022, more than $252m went toward such waste storage areas. 

Silvia Secchi, researcher of agriculture and water sustainability at Iowa University who was not involved in the report, said,  “The USDA is essentially encouraging more livestock production, making it cheaper by subsidizing activities on these farms…We’re going to see the expansion of dairy operations, like in Iowa. What that means is all the climate benefits are going to be countered by the expansion of these facilities. So I wouldn’t call this ‘climate smart’.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.