USDA to spend $1 billion on agriculture projects to fight climate change

A wind farm shares space with cornfields in Latimer, Iowa, USA

Jonathan Ernest | Reuters

The US Department of Agriculture will spend $1 billion on projects that enable farmers, ranchers and forest owners to use practices that reduce emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases or capture and store carbon , USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday.

The investment comes after President Joe Biden called on US farmers to lead the way in offsetting emissions and pledged to halve emissions from the agricultural sector by 2030. The sector accounts for more than 10% US emissions, according to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency. A range of public and private entities can apply for grants ranging from $5 million to $100 million, the agency said, including state, local and tribal governments, nonprofits, small businesses and organizations. colleges.

For many American farmers who have suffered significant losses from worsening floods, storms and droughts, tackling climate change has become a matter of survival. The United Nations Science Panel on Climate Change has warned that humans must change the way they produce food and use land to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

“They saw it, they felt it, and they were hurt by it,” Vilsack said Monday at Lincoln University, a historically black land-grant university in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Some farmers, ranchers and foresters have already adopted climate-smart practices that capture existing carbon and store it in the soil. However, others are wary of upfront costs and uncertain returns that could vary across different farms and locations.

“We try to encourage the creation of climate-smart products that have a higher market value and from which farmers can generate additional profits,” Vilsack said.

“It’s about creating domestic markets that will provide American agriculture and forestry with the resources to do what they do best – feed the world, while serving as great stewards of our lands and our waters.”

The USDA program will focus on projects that implement climate-smart conservation practices, such as no-till, cover crops, and rotational grazing, as well as measuring and monitoring emissions greenhouse gas emissions from farms and carbon capture and storage.

The agency defines a climate-smart commodity as an agricultural commodity produced using agricultural, livestock or forestry practices that reduce emissions or sequester carbon.

The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program will receive money from the agency’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which provides up to $30 billion in annual US Treasury funding to support farm incomes.

Teresa H. Sadler