The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a new effort to provide tools that will help farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of their operations.

USDA notes the project will bring together scientific experts from across the department, other federal agencies, and U.S. research institutions in an effort to develop consistent metrics for estimating changes in GHG emissions and carbon sequestration. USDA’s goal is to develop tools that will provide a comprehensive, transparent approach to calculating changes in GHG emissions across all management activities within a farm, ranch or forest operation. In addition, the tools will allow users to estimate the GHG benefit of new technologies, such as methane digesters and nitrification inhibitors.

This effort aims to capture current science and to provide user-friendly tools and guidance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are interested in quantifying the GHG benefits of the management changes they make. USDA says the tools will also be useful in assessing the ecosystem services benefits of current and future conservation programs and initiatives.

USDA’s announcement also tracks provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. Section 2709 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, states: “USDA shall prepare technical guidelines that outline science-based methods to measure carbon benefits from conservation and land management activities.” The Federal Register notice can is available at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/. Comments must be submitted by April 19, 2011.