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Credibility is Key with Climate Smart Commodities

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Getting farmers to produce climate smart commodities means economic incentives are needed. The USDA has created the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, investing over three billion dollars to do so.

But they aren’t asking for too much. USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie thinks farmers have been doing the practices for a while even if it’s not always been called “climate smart”.

“It’s everything from conservation till to cover crops to enhanced efficiency fertilizers. And if they adopt those practices and produce commodities, we’re looking for ways to monetize the benefits for those farmers.” 

Credibility will be key according to Bonnie, they will implement the Growing Climate Solution Act, bipartisan legislation that tries to maintain that public confidence.

They also will document the farmer’s work on all 135 projects producing dozens of commodities..

“All those projects are required to monitor, report, and verify those climate smart practices and the greenhouse gas benefits of those practices.” 

At the moment, there is a bet of value in the commodity. From the recently produced climate smart rice in Wisconsin to sustainable aviation fuels, Bonnie says ultimately it has to be financially viable.

“This has to produce value for producers, that’s the most important thing we’re doing. And in order to do that we have to make sure, both that we get the science right, that we measure and monitor. That we keep the costs low.” 

And find ways for farmers to take advantage of market incentives in the supply chain.

“Part of this is to go out and learn by doing, partner with farmers on the ground. Figure out ways to create value here. We believe if we create that value, U.S. agriculture is going to be really good at it. In fact we already are really good at it.” 

Because the end goal is to offer a new avenue of farm production, the program is designed to aggregate all types of producers into common projects and provide an incentive to implement projects. But Bonnie says the dollar amount or premium farmers may get for climate smart production will vary from commodity to commodity.

“We’re going to collect data on these and be as transparent as we can about the results here. So we’re early days here, we probably have about two million enrolled right now, a couple thousand producers I think more to come as we roll these projects out. And we’re going to learn where the value is in the marketplace here.”

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