RELEASE: EMIT LESS Act Marks A Step Toward Reducing Enteric Methane Emissions

Washington, DC—Methane has a large, but short-term impact on planetary warming. Targeting enteric fermentation in livestock production represents an opportunity to curb nearly one-quarter of U.S. methane emissions. Most of the methane from beef and dairy production is caused by enteric fermentation, a natural process by which microbes in the cattle’s gut decompose and ferment food. These microbes in the cattle’s gut often steal greater than 6% of the energy in the diet away from the animal while generating methane. Reducing enteric methane emissions can be both a climate win, and an economic imperative by reducing the cost of cattle feed. As people around the world are eating more meat and drinking more milk, the need for solutions to enteric fermentation emissions grows to one of national importance.

To address these challenges, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Crapo (R-ID), Baldwin (D-WI), and Moran (R-KS) introduced the EMIT LESS Act this week to provide much-needed support for enteric methane research and cost-sharing to enable on-farm emissions reductions. The legislation directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand domestic capacity to develop and increase the adoption of enteric methane solutions. If enacted, it would:

  • bolster capacity to assess the safety and efficacy of enteric methane-mitigating products and practices through USDA’s Agricultural Research Service,

  • enhance the understanding of baseline enteric methane emissions and impacts on animal productivity and animal health and welfare,

  • expand training opportunities at land grant institutions including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges that familiarize farmers and ranchers with practices that reduce enteric methane emissions, and

  • add practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including enteric methane, as an eligible approach for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trial grants.

Furthermore, the bill would make enteric methane reduction products and practices eligible for cost-share under several USDA conservation programs. This would help to mitigate the financial risk for producers to voluntarily use new practices or tools to pursue lower-carbon production.

The EMIT LESS Act is a good first step in establishing the scientific infrastructure needed for farmers, ranchers, and companies throughout the livestock supply chain to reduce their methane emissions. By funding testing, measurement technology, and on-farm trials, the legislation ensures all products and solutions prove their effectiveness at reducing enteric methane, without compromising animal health and human consumption safety. These important steps are needed so producers and consumers alike can have faith in new products that come to market. These efforts will also help U.S. beef and dairy producers compete in a global market as sustainability demands build.

In addition to the proposals laid out in the EMIT LESS Act, policymakers must do more to prioritize the development of accurate, consistent, deployable, and affordable enteric methane measurement technologies. Accurate on-farm measurement at herd scale is needed to inform improved methane modeling and prediction. Furthermore, there is a lack of on-farm measurement tools that are easy to use and enable producers to observe trends, test practices they believe could reduce emissions, and continuously improve their operations. Congress and USDA should consider how new or existing federal programs could catalyze the development of measurement tools and technologies capable of supporting voluntary on-farm enteric methane emissions measurement.

Breakthrough urges Congress to carefully consider this legislation amidst ongoing farm bill negotiations. By passing this legislation, Congress can accelerate the development and adoption of cost-effective solutions to reduce enteric methane emissions, ultimately bolstering the long-term sustainability and profitability of U.S. beef and dairy production.


For media contact:

David Hong

Federal Policy Director for Food and Agriculture