USDA Invests US$1 Billion in Climate-Smart Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a US$1 billion investment in pilot projects that support farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners implementing climate-smart conservation practices.

According to the new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, USDA defines a climate-smart commodity as “an agricultural commodity that is produced using farming, ranching or forestry practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon.”

The initiative includes cover crops, low-till or no-till farming, agroforestry, rotational grazing, and reforestation, among others, as examples of possible climate-smart conservation practices.

“America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest owners are leading the way in implementing climate-smart solutions across their operations,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. “Through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, USDA will provide targeted funding to meet national and global demand and expand market opportunities for climate-smart commodities to increase the competitive advantage of American producers. We want a broad array of agriculture and forestry to see themselves in this effort, including small and historically underserved producers as well as early adopters.”

USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation will provide funding. And along with incentivizing the implementation of climate-smart production practices, the initiative has other goals. Pilot projects will aim to measure, monitor, and verify how these climate-smart approaches benefit greenhouse gas reduction and carbon sequestration. They also aim to expand and develop market opportunities that will promote climate-smart commodities.

To ensure equity, the new program hopes to identify proposals involving a diverse range of producers, commodities, and regions, including from small or historically underserved producers.

“As we look at applications, we want to make sure that those applications include provisions relating to how they’re going to reach out to underserved producers to incorporate them in the program,” Vilsack says.

USDA will provide funding in two rounds. The first round, due April 8, will focus on large-scale projects with proposals ranging from US$5 million to US$100 million. The second round of funding, due May 27, seeks proposals worth approximately US$250,000 to US$4,999,999. A range of public and private entities are eligible to apply, including state and local governments, small businesses, nonprofits, tribal organizations and governments, and several others.

Applicants can submit proposals online. The projects must provide detailed plans to monitor greenhouse gas or carbon sequestration benefits, as well as plans to evaluate the benefits producers will receive from climate-smart commodities.

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Photo courtesy of Immo Wegmann, Unsplash

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