The 70 projects announced Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack involve a wide range of agricultural and environmental groups, as well as minority groups of farmers, American Indian tribes and some of the largest multinational food companies, from PepsiCo to Nestlé and Smithfield Foods. An additional $ 700 million will be awarded later for smaller projects.
The projects, which have received up to $ 95 million each and will be built over five years, aim to produce low-carbon versions of cereals, almonds, meat and dairy products, biofuels, forest products, cotton. and even hemp and bison.
They include projects that will use conservation practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food and feed crop production, capture biogas from farming operations, and produce low-carbon corn that can be turned into ethanol and sustainable aviation fuel.
The administration originally planned to spend only $ 1 billion from its Commodity Credit Corp. account on Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects, but raised the funding limit to $ 3.5 billion as a result of applying for funding. , Vilsack said. The department received 1,050 applications for nearly $ 20 billion in total funding requested.
The USDA cannot borrow more than $ 30 billion from the CCC, which is also used to cover agricultural program payments and commodity loans, but Vilsack said the department had plenty of room in the account to fund projects. smart for the climate.
According to the USDA tally, there are 13 projects involving beef cattle and other livestock, 13 involving fruit and vegetables, 12 corn and soy projects, nine involving dairy operations, six involving cotton, peanuts and tree nuts. and three involving hay, grass and energy crops.
All 50 states and Puerto Rico will be involved in at least one of the projects.
Over their lifetime, the projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tons, according to the USDA. By comparison, agriculture was responsible for around 635 million tons of emissions in 2020, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The USDA plans to report regularly on the progress of projects, which Vilsack says will benefit from the nearly $ 20 billion in conservation program funding provided by the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act.
“Everyone who participates in this program and enters into an agreement in this program agrees to be part of a network that will meet periodically and report data and information,” said Vilsack.
The timing for obtaining usable results for pilots will vary. He said “there are some projects where we could get some first indications and first victories. There may be projects that may take a little longer to mature. ”
Vilsack said the projects will give the United States a “fairly significant leadership role” in the next round of international climate negotiations. Food companies will benefit from being able to market their products as good for the climate, she said. You also said that US trading partners are “quite interested” in the US initiative.
“I think we all recognize that agriculture must be part of the solution, not the problem,” he said.
According to the USDA, up to 25 million acres of land and 50,000 farms will be affected by the projects. More than 50% of federal funding will be matched with private and non-federal sources, the department says.
Some of the projects involve more than 30 states while others are contained in one.
Two of the projects received $ 95 million, including one led by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation which will incentivize the use of corn and soybean cover crops and involve 20 states.
The second of these projects, led by the Iowa Soybean Association and involving companies such as Target, Coca-Cola and meat packaging giant JBS, will reward corn, soybean and wheat growers through “results-based contracts” for reducing carbon emissions. That project was one of three reported by Vilsack two weeks ago at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa, where he wanted to offer a “flavor” of the type of projects intended to receive funding.
Truterra, the sustainability firm of the Land O’Lakes dairy cooperative, is leading one of three projects that each received $ 90 million. The Truterra project, which has the support of John Deere, Campbell Soup, Hershey and Nestleaims to promote climate-friendly practices among corn, soy, wheat, cotton and dairy producers in 28 states.
Thirty-two states extending from Florida and New York to Oregon and Washington will be involved in a Field to Market-led project that will use what the USDA has described as “innovative financial mechanisms” to encourage farmers to adopt smart practices for climate.
In one of its biofuel efforts, Gevo Inc. is leading a project awarded $ 30 million to offer incentives for less carbon-intensive corn. The corn would then be turned into ethanol to produce sustainable aviation fuel.
National Sorghum Producers is spearheading a $ 65 million project to incentivize practices such as soil tillage reduction, crop rotation, and nitrogen and irrigation management with an eye on low-fuel biofuel markets. carbon emissions. The hope is that growers will also be eligible for credits for ecosystem services.
Among projects aimed at developing climate-friendly meat, Tyson Foods is leading a project awarded $ 60 million to “increase carbon sequestration and reduce emissions in beef production and row crops for livestock feed.” .
Pork giant Smithfield Foods, meanwhile, is collaborating on an $ 80 million project that will be partly aimed at sequestering carbon through renewable natural gas production.
South Dakota State University is leading a $ 80 million funded project to use climate-friendly grazing and land management practices to develop a market for low-carbon beef and bison. The project will reach 13 states and tribal lands.
Dairy projects the USDA is funding include one led by Dairy Farmers of America with support from Nestle, Mars and Unilever, to increase soil carbon sequestration and capture of methane emissions. DFA “will ensure that collective financial benefits are acquired on the farm, creating an exciting opportunity to establish a powerful self-sustaining circular economy model that benefits US agriculture, including disadvantaged producers,” the USDA says.
Among projects with a narrower geographic reach, the California Dairy Research Foundation is leading a project awarded $ 85 million to reduce methane emissions in the state’s dairy operations.
Blue Diamond Growers is leading a $ 45 million awarded project to increase market opportunities for almonds through the adoption of regenerative and climate-friendly practices in California almond farms. The project will develop verified claims and quantification of the supply chain of greenhouse gas emissions.
In South Carolina, Clemson University is leading a $ 70 million project that involves groups of minority farmers and will benefit producers of peanuts, beef, fodder, leafy vegetables and forest products.
Texas A&M University will lead the Texas Climate-Smart Initiative, which received $ 65 million and will benefit producers of pecans, olives, grapes, hemp, citrus, cotton, wheat sorghum, corn, rice, vegetables, livestock , dairy and forest products.
The projects are closely aligned with the recommendations of a coalition of agricultural and conservation groups, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance.
“The FACA appreciates the USDA’s use of the Alliance’s recommendations as a guide in developing the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities,” the group said in a statement. FACA noted that the projects will include underserved producers and farmers who are already using climate smart practices. “The Alliance is pleased that the selected projects recognize the differences between regions, farm size and forest type and production diversity in the United States,” the statement said.
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