The Biden administration should not extend federal climate funding to projects that turn livestock waste into biofuel, a group of 13 congressional members urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Feb. 2 letter.
The growing movement to capture methane from livestock waste and transform it into natural gas only benefits large producers and further encourages mass-scale industrial agriculture, according to the letter, led by Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Alma Adams.
"We oppose the inclusion of these practices, which further entrench the unsustainable, inhumane industrial model by funneling a significant portion of conservation dollars to a handful of large producers instead of supporting more small and mid-sized producers employing meaningful conservation practices," the letter said.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in October expanded practices eligible for climate funding under the Inflation Reduction Act to include waste storage facilities and roofs for biogas capture. The move sparked expansive pushback from environmentalists, with close to 200 climate groups calling on the agency to reconsider.
Through anaerobic digestion, farmers trap greenhouse gasses from manure, which can then be burned for renewable electricity or used as vehicle fuel. Biofuel proponents say anaerobic digestion opens new revenue streams for farmers while lowering emissions.
But environmentalists argue that funding these types of projects is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Practices such as cover cropping are "far more effective at mitigating climate change and … can be employed by far more producers at lower cost per project," lawmakers said in their letter.
Democrats are asking the USDA for a briefing on why the agency expanded funding eligibility to biogas production and "how this decision will affect the allocation of IRA conservation funding through 2031."
Other signatories of the letter include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Rashida Tlaib.