WASHINGTON, D.C. – Playing in the climate-smart sandbox has made for some strange bedfellows. What brought 70 projects and their “non-partisan,” happy grant writers together for a carbon-neutral future? $2.8 billion (yep, with a B). Guess that’s enough cash to bring about partnerships from Cargill to Certified Organic.

In historic fashion, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Sept. 14 that USDA is investing in 70 selected projects ranging from $5 million to $100 million under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. According to the USDA’s press release, “This effort will expand markets for America’s climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and provide direct, meaningful benefits to production agriculture, including for small and underserved producers.”

Vilsack touts these projects will “provide technical and financial assistance to producers to implement climate-smart production practices on a voluntary basis on working lands; pilot innovative and cost-effective methods for quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas benefits; and develop markets and promote the resulting climate-smart commodities.”

USDA anticipates that these 70 projects will result in “hundreds of expanded markets and revenue streams for producers and commodities across agriculture ranging from traditional corn to specialty crops. More than 50,000 farms will be reached, encompassing over 20 – 25 million acres of working land engaged in climate-smart production practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management. More than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent will be sequestered over the lives of the projects. This is equivalent to removing more than 10 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road for one year. More than 50 universities, including multiple minority-serving institutions, will engage and help advance projects, especially with outreach and monitoring, measurement, reporting and verification.”

Climate-smart projects announced

Agroforestry is a climate-smart ag practice. Photo by Troy Bishopp

For the East region, several projects were awarded, including “Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program: Building a Multi-Stakeholder Path to Produce, Market and Promote Climate-Smart Commodities Across the U.S.,” “Climate SMART (Scaling Mechanisms for Agriculture’s Regenerative Transformation)” led by Truterra LLC, “Climate-Smart Farming & Marketing: Engaging in Community-Science” led by PASA, “NYS Connects: Climate Smart Farms and Forests – Utilizing Behavioral Systems Approach to Break Through Social Norms/Barriers” led by NYS DEC, “Expanding Agroforestry Production & Markets” led by the Nature Conservancy, “Scaling Methane Emissions Reductions and Soil Carbon Sequestration – A Value-Added Commodities Approach for United States Dairy” led by DFA, “The Partnership to Define Climate-Smart Commodities Impact and Unlock Consumer Demand (TSIP Partnership for Impact and Demand)” led by the Meridian Institute, “Growing the Supply and Market for Climate-Smart Grass-Fed Organic Dairy via Maple Hill Creamery” and “Farmers for Soil Health Climate-Smart Commodities Partnership” led by NFWF.

For the full list of projects and their partners, visit usda.gov/climate-solutions/climate-smart-commodities/projects.

The wordsmithing of project introductions is spectacular and a fascinating new look into the vernacular of climate-smart marketing. The question on many minds is how these 70 projects will trickle down to the farmer or landowner – and if they will truly help minimize carbon footprints. Stay tuned for transparency.

by Troy Bishopp