Robert Bonnie, new USDA Undersecretary
Biden further expands his USDA team to advance climate-smart agriculture, carbon farming, soil carbon sequestration & regenerative methods. Robert Bonnie will direct a huge federal moneypile of commodity, conservation & climate programs. Bonnie originated the idea to create a Soil Carbon Bank using Commodity Credit capital — a farmer incentive initiative that hadn’t occurred to me, and may have huge merit. Already Bonnie is endorsed by Farm Bureau & Soybean producers, so his ideas have support some of the most conservative US farm organizations. For what it’s worth, seems Bonnie will answer to Biden, not to Vilsack, on key climate policy & strategy, but In any event, Bonnie & Vilsack are old partners, closely aligned.
Biden Nominates Robert Bonnie
for USDA FPAC Undersecretary
President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Robert Bonnie, who serves as climate advisor for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, to become USDA undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
Bonnie's current title is deputy chief of staff at USDA and senior advisor for climate. He was an early part of the Biden transition team at the department and has served as the point person in working on ways for agriculture to sequester carbon in the soil and reduce emissions from production. Bonne also served with Vilsack as an advisor in the Obama administration and was undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment.
Vilsack said he was grateful for Biden nominating Bonnie to serve as undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, a position that will require a Senate confirmation.
“He is one of the nation's foremost authorities and leaders on working lands approaches to conservation and incentive-based climate and conservation practices for farmers, ranchers, foresters and landowners,” Vilsack said. “Under Robert's steady hand, America's farmers, ranchers, producers and landowners will see renewed focus on building and maintaining markets at home and abroad and preparing our food and agricultural community to lead the world in climate-smart agricultural practices. Robert will be committed to working with U.S. farmers and landowners to help feed Americans and the world and make climate smart practices work for them in a market-oriented way--a way that creates new streams of income, a cleaner energy future and a bio-based manufacturing revolution.”
Dubbed FPAC, agencies that fall under Farm Production and Conservation include the Farm Service Agency for commodity programs and the Conservation Reserve Program; the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which handles other conservation programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program; and the Risk Management Agency, which oversees crop insurance.
Bonnie is among those in the department who have advocated using the Commodity Credit Corp. establish a carbon bank. He was also a lead author on a series of transition memos dubbed the Climate 21 Project detailing actions USDA should take on climate.
He would replace former Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who served as the FPAC undersecretary during the Trump administration.
Besides his work at USDA, the White House background on Bonnie highlighted he also was vice president for land conservation for the Environmental Defense Fund where he focused on developing incentives to reward farmers, ranchers and forest owners for stewardship activities on private lands. At EDF, Bonnie helped develop the Safe Harbor program and other incentive-based approaches to endangered species conservation. Bonnie has masters degrees in forestry and environmental management from Duke University. He grew up on a farm in Kentucky and now lives in Virginia.
Bonnie told DTN in January that any climate incentives built at USDA will need to have support from the agriculture and forestry industries, as well as landowners and producers. Key elements in that include outreach, he said. “We want to work alongside producers and landowners and make sure these things not only deliver climate benefits, but do it in a practical way that is a benefit for the producers,” Bonnie said.
Bonnie also told DTN at the time that it is important to have an array of a programs and financial support to help farmers work climate resilience and adaptation. “Part of our job is to create a toolbox that producers can draw on because everyone has got different needs,” he said.
After the White House announcement of Bonnie's nomination, the American Soybean Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation both issued statements supporting Bonnie.
Thanks, David. Seems like good news.toggle quoted messageShow quoted text
Stan Slaughter, M.A., Biology
US Composting Council Educator of the Year, 2000
Education and Garden Specialist-
Missouri Organic Recycling