USDA pledges $1 billion for ‘climate-smart’ agricultural products

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The US Department of Agriculture plans to spend up to $1 billion to help create climate-friendly agricultural and forestry products by providing subsidies to facilitate their production and markets to sell them.

The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon in these industries.

“Agriculture is such an exciting yet challenging, critical yet dynamic space. It’s easy to convince young people to get involved in this field,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Monday in his announcement of the program at Lincoln University of Missouri, a historically black university with a strong agricultural program. “It’s at the heart of our fight against climate change.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main drivers of global warming, come from agriculture, especially livestock. Cattle are the main agricultural emitters of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program will provide up to $100 million for individual pilot projects to plan and implement emission reduction practices, create new markets to sell the products resulting from these practices and to quantify the effectiveness of the practices.

Measuring livestock emissions has long been a tricky proposition for federal regulators. An example: the United States Environmental Protection Agency suspended its application of the Clean Air Act about 16 years ago because it could relate to animal confinements, as it seeks to develop a reliable means of measuring emissions. buildings.

Beef production is potentially a bigger dilemma because animals are often raised in free-range lots. However, the researchers were able to estimate the average annual methane production of cows and how much it can be reduced with specialized diets.

The new USDA grant program is open to a wide variety of entities: businesses, nonprofits, governments, Native American tribal governments and organizations, colleges, and universities.

The ministry has set an April 8 deadline for proposals ranging from $5 million to $100 million and a May 27 deadline for those costing less than $5 million, according to the Ministry’s funding opportunity public notice. ministry. “Historically underserved” small agricultural producers and “minority-serving institutions” will be prioritized, the notice says.

“It might look like, for example, a group of small-scale farmers working with a nonprofit organization to implement and quantify climate-smart practices in partnership with a retailer,” Vilsack said. “Or it could be a network of commodity organizations recruiting specialty crop farmers to quantify reduced emissions and market the resulting products. It could be a partner farmer organization working with universities to test innovative approaches to monitoring and verifying climate benefits to help with commercialization It could be all or any of these, and many other ideas and concepts.

Vilsack did not say whether the products would carry a “climate-smart” label subject to USDA certification, similar to organic foods.

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