USDA pumps another $325 million into “climate-smart” farming

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced another $325 million for “climate-smart” farming projects, bringing the total funding for the new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program to over $3 billion. 

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the latest round of funding Dec. 12 at Tuskegee University, a historically Black college in Alabama. The list of 71 recipients for the second round of funding includes mainly small and underserved farmers and ranchers.

“I think it’s fair to say that farmers, ranchers and producers … recognize and appreciate the risks and challenges they face as a result of a changing climate,” Vilsack said, while speaking at Tuskegee. “We also know that far too often those risks and challenges impact and affect small sized farming operations and those who have been historically underserved perhaps a bit harder than others.”

The secretary announced the first round of funding awarded to Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Sept. 14 from the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, the lead partner on one of 70 projects funded through the program. The first phase of funding went to large grant projects that were funded from $5 million to $100 million over three to five years.

USDA awards $2.8 billion for climate-smart farming projects

The goal of the program uses financial incentives to get farmers and producers to implement agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is also to create new markets for these “climate-smart” products.

“We believe by creating this opportunity that we could support the acceleration and adoption of climate smart practices on our farms, ranches, orchards and forests,” Vilsack said. “We believe strongly that by working in partnership and collaboration, we can develop new market opportunities for these climate smart agricultural and forest products, creating new value-added opportunities for producers.”

The projects announced Dec. 12, with funding ranging from $250,000 to $4.9 million, include: 

  • $4.9 million to develop markets among socially-disadvantaged, limited-resource and urban farmers in Ohio and Michigan. Central State University is leading this project with Ohio State University and others.
  • $4.9 million to model and develop whole-farm carbon sequestration systems geared toward mid-sized farms that produce crops and beef in the Ohio River Valley in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
  • $4.7 million to West Virginia University Research Corporation and its partners to provide financial and technical assistance to support farmers in West Virginia and Virginia transitioning from typical livestock systems to a variety of climate-smart practices.
  • $4.9 million to the American Lamb Board and its partners to measure and report the climate benefits of prescribed sheep grazing.

Agriculture causes an estimated 11% of the nation’s climate-warming emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. President Joe Biden set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half in the U.S. by 2030. 

After the climate-smart money is awarded, Vilsack said there would be a concerted effort to monitor what programs succeeded and those that struggled so the efforts could be replicated.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544. The Associated Press contributed to this reporting.)

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Rachel is Farm and Dairy's editor and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.

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