Calling it "one of the greatest threats facing our planet," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is taking action to meet the challenge of climate change.

Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Secretary said USDA continues to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "by helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to be even better conservationists."

"We remain focused on steps to advance clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing our economy," said Vilsack. "Farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a great deal to contribute to mitigating climate change, while also ensuring that farms adapt to climate change, and they can benefit by embracing a range of conservation practices."

Vilsack said USDA will demonstrate ways landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration while improving their financial bottom line. The effort includes providing opportunities to leverage private sector demand for greenhouse gas mitigation services, evaluating how emerging greenhouse gas markets can work in concert with USDA programs to protect the environment, and building capacity within USDA to understand voluntary greenhouse gas markets and to explore improved approaches for greenhouse gas accounting systems.

Among the steps announced, Vilsack said USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $15 million in Conservation Innovation Grant funds and other assistance to support large-scale demonstration projects to accelerate the adoption of new approaches to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote carbon sequestration on private lands. As part of this, NRCS will provide financial assistance to support eligible producers as they implement conservation practices associated with these selected GHG projects.