How USDA Can Advance Livestock Greenhouse Gas Measurement, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification

During a recent public request for information, the Breakthrough Institute—in collaboration with Dr. Doug Tolleson (Director of the Grazingland Animal Nutrition Laboratory at Texas A&M AgriLife Research)—provided input to improve the USDA’s proposed measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV) strategy.

We commended the USDA and its partner agencies for their commitment to tracking agricultural greenhouse gas emissions through MMRV. And many of the animal agriculture and enteric methane strategies mentioned in the proposed strategy reflected suggestions we’ve made in publications like “We Can’t Manage Cattle Methane Without Better Measurements.” Yet the strategy does have several gaps, including reference to measurement technology, data collection, measurement capacity, and decision support tools.

We recommend the following to address the proposed strategy’s shortfalls (discussed in more detail in the comment document):

  • Reduce the cost and improve the reliability of in situ enteric methane measurements

  • Expand USDA survey data collection on dairy, feedlot, and cow-calf practices relevant to estimating methane emissions

  • Establish USDA data sharing agreements and partnerships with private companies

  • Establish a geographically representative research network

  • Expand and continually update COMET-Farm and other decision-support tools

It is important to note that researchers have access to individual animal methane measurement technology, and efforts are well underway for top-down aerial and satellite landscape monitoring. In turn, during the discussion of recommendations, we stressed that the USDA and partner agencies should spur the development of in situ on-farm methane measurement technology for animal production. The USDA is prioritizing in situ measurement investment for soil carbon, and it must do likewise for livestock while working closely with industry and producers in doing so.

We believe that the implementation of these recommendations will greatly enhance USDA's efforts in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and foster a more sustainable future for agriculture.