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Historic Investment in Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities and Rural Projects | Hear What They’re Saying

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WASHINGTON, September 22, 2022 – Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Biden-Harris Administration through the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity.

These initial projects will expand markets for 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.

Through last week’s announcement of initial selections for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, Vilsack said “USDA is delivering on our promise to build and expand these market opportunities for American agriculture and be global leaders in climate-smart agricultural production.

“There is strong and growing interest in the private sector and among consumers for food that is grown in a climate-friendly way. This effort will increase the competitive advantage of U.S. agriculture both domestically and internationally, build wealth that stays in rural communities and support a diverse range of producers and operation types.”

Earlier this year, Vilsack announced that USDA had allocated $1 billion for the program, divided into two funding pools. Because of the unprecedented demand and interest in the program, and potential for meaningful opportunities to benefit producers through the proposals, the Biden-Harris administration increased the total funding allocation to more than $3 billion, with projects from the second funding pool to be announced later this year.

See below for what they are saying:

American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall

“AFBF congratulates the organizations that were selected for USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. We are pleased that several projects that received support from AFBF and involve state Farm Bureaus were selected to receive funding. AFBF is proud to be a founding member of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which believes conservation goals should be voluntary and market-driven. We’re pleased that USDA based the program on FACA recommendations, and believe this is a positive step toward advancing conservation solutions that respect farmers as partners.”

American Sugarbeet Growers Association Executive Vice President Luther Markwart

“America’s sugarbeet farmers have been global leaders in sustainable sugar production for decades, using best practices and continuous improvement to provide reliable supplies to consumers. Our family farmers look forward to demonstrating the climate-smart benefits of their crops, along with our project partners. We appreciate this tremendous opportunity from USDA and are proud to work alongside them in this exciting process.”

Blue Diamond Growers President and CEO Mark Jansen

“This is a historic opportunity for our 112-year old cooperative representing nearly half of the almond growers in California. These funds will help significantly accelerate and expand the stewardship impact that our multi-generational family farms are already making in orchards throughout the state. On behalf of our nearly 3,000 grower-owners, I applaud the USDA for a vision to commit meaningful investment in furthering climate smart American agricultural production.”

Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg

“Colorado farmers and ranchers have stewarded the land they work for generations and are our first line of defense against the climate crisis. Incentivizing voluntary adoption of conservation, soil health, renewable energy, and climate smart agriculture practices is a leading priority at CDA; the urgency of this work cannot be understated. We’re glad to be working in partnership with the federal government to create positive changes across our state. Governor Polis and I are eager to help the USDA and the federal government tackle the big issues we have before us. Colorado is well set up to help drive these federal programs through our incentive-based soil health, energy efficiency, and drought resilience programs and we welcome these additional investments the USDA will be making into climate smart agricultural and forestry programs.”

Environmental Defense Fund Vice President of Climate-Smart Agriculture Britt Groosman

“USDA saw overwhelming interest from farmers, ranchers and foresters to accelerate agriculture’s capacity to deliver climate benefits. The agency met the moment, nearly tripling their original $1 billion commitment and creating a dedicated pool of funding for climate projects that expand opportunities for farmers of color, beginning farmers and other historically marginalized producers. This is the decisive decade for determining what our climate future will be. Agriculture currently contributes 10% of U.S. emissions, but it has enormous capacity to be part of the solution. USDA’s increased investment will equip producers to cut emissions and make their businesses more resilient. It will boost scientific research to measure climate progress over time.”

Field to Market President Scott Herndon

“The transition to climate-smart agricultural practices is a journey that many farmers cannot undertake alone. We are incredibly grateful to be selected as a recipient of this funding, as it allows us to increase the availability of innovative strategies that reduce the financial and agronomic risks for farmers in adopting climate-smart practices.”

Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance

“The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its consideration and selection of pilot projects through its Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott

“Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not use this opportunity to mention the exciting work being funded by the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program at USDA. Just this morning Secretary Vilsack announced funding of $25 million for the Rodale Institute working with the University of Georgia and Emory University to help producers expand markets for their produce, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, educating consumers, and developing technology that will improve scalability of their model. This is so important and I am so very supportive of what Secretary Vilsack is doing with this program. This project is just one of 70 receiving funding, but with it being in Georgia, I am sure it will be the most successful.”

International Fresh Produce Association Chief Science Officer Max Teplitski, PhD

“IFPA applauds the USDA investment into all climate-smart projects and is especially motivated by USDA’s strong commitment to projects impacting specialty crops. We are thrilled to see the ‘Vibrant Future’ project funded, as an investment into specialty crops is especially timely. This funding will allow us to ‘test-drive’ technologies that are climate-smart and also ensure financial sustainability of grower operations, develop marketing strategies to educate consumers on how fresh fruit, vegetable and floral industry contributes to alleviating the climate crisis and – importantly – gather data that will enable our industry to participate in the Green Economy.”

National Cotton Council Chairman Ted Schneider

“The U.S. cotton industry is committed to sustainability and to protecting the environment. The $90 million of funding allocated to the U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program is a historic investment that will further enhance our industry’s voluntary environmental stewardship efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, soil loss and water and energy use, while increasing land efficiency and soil carbon. The U.S. cotton industry is honored to partner with USDA on this very important environmental enterprise. We look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack on future climate-smart programs not only to build and expand market opportunities for U.S. cotton but be global leaders in mitigating the impact of climate change through voluntary and innovative conservation practices.”

National Council of Farmers Cooperatives President and CEO Chuck Conner

“The Secretary’s announcement today represents a significant commitment by USDA and the federal government to helping America’s farmers, ranchers, and growers adopt climate smart farming practices and measure the positive impacts they have on reaching this country’s climate goals. It is especially heartening to see that some 10% of the projects are either being led by or have major participation by farmer cooperatives. This illustrates not just the commitment of co-ops to climate-smart agriculture, but that co-ops can bring these benefits to the greatest number of producers while serving to connect them to other partners up and down the food and ag value chain.”

National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern

“America’s dairy community applauds USDA’s support for the robust efforts dairy farmers are leading to develop and implement climate-smart solutions that will benefit the entire food chain, from producer to consumer. As an agricultural leader in sustainability, dairy farmers appreciate this funding that will help us meet our ambitious industry-wide goals for net-zero emissions and optimized water use.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul

“Sustainable agriculture is critical for combatting the effects of climate change, and this significant funding commitment will greatly aid New York’s farm and forest owners, allowing us to partner together as a nation to reduce greenhouse gases. Thanks to this funding announced under President Biden and his Administration, we take another major step towards improving our environment for the next generation. The public and private partnerships leading the Climate Smart Farms and Forests Project will provide new and innovative measures that promote forestry and farming that will help achieve our ambitious climate goals, protect the environment, preserve farmland, and meet a global demand for products grown with greener technology.”

Organic Valley Director of Sustainability Nicole Rakobitsch

“Facing the increasing impacts of the climate crisis, this action from the USDA is vital for the future of farming in the U.S. to weather the current and coming storms. This strategic funding offered by USDA allows us and others to innovate in a meaningful way with farmers and bring to the market climate friendly food. Organic Valley is creating a model approach to reducing carbon emissions, and we believe that model can be replicated across the food sector. As we advance carbon insetting, we will share our learnings and best practices. Ultimately, we are excited to offer consumers the products they are demanding in the marketplace: dairy and eggs with a low carbon footprint.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

“Agriculture bears the brunt of the impact of climate change, from extreme weather to an environment that is more inviting to invasive pests, plants and disease. My administration has provided unprecedented support for the industry that feeds and sustains us – as seen through the PA Farm Bill and Clean Streams Fund – and I am pleased that our efforts will be multiplied exponentially with federal support. Farmers cannot tackle climate change alone.”

Propagate Director of Strategic Partnerships Audrey Epp Schmidt

“We are grateful to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for this transformative investment by the USDA into the agroforestry industry. This funding will catalyze significant private investments into the industry and increase farmers’ incomes while simultaneously expanding carbon sequestration, soil health, biodiversity, and water quality. To give more farmers access to this growing and profitable agroforestry market, the partners will advance this work on multiple fronts, simultaneously giving farmers incentives and access to capital and technical support to plant trees and growing the market for their products to ensure their long-term success. By increasing the demand for agroforestry commodities, this effort will cultivate new supply chains and develop markets for domestically produced climate-smart agroforestry commodities.”

Rural Investment to Protect Our Environment Executive Director Aliza Drewes

“We are honored that USDA sees the potential in our approach to paying producers fairly for conservation. USDA’s willingness to pilot the RIPE100 concept signals a national appetite for game-changing solutions and recognizes many producers’ desire to move away from cost-share.”

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow

“Today’s announcement is a huge step forward to provide more of the tools our farmers and rural communities need to address the climate crisis and stay profitable at the same time. From climate-smart agriculture and forestry to biobased products and renewable fuels, these public-private partnerships create good-paying jobs and improve our carbon footprint on and off the farm too. By pairing federal investment with innovation at the local level, USDA is scaling up the exciting work that so many partners are already doing on the ground.”

Senator Bob Casey

“Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry is central to our economy. This funding will give a boost to farmers and ranchers as well as manufacturers using climate-smart production to support local economies and increase PA competitiveness while combatting the climate crisis.”

Senator Lindsey Graham

“I very much appreciate Secretary Vilsack awarding this grant to strengthen South Carolina’s agriculture economy. The world is experiencing a food crisis, and Clemson University, South Carolina State University, and South Carolina farmers are on the forefront of increasing crop yields and helping poverty-stricken regions through cutting-edge research. Investing in research and development – particularly as it pertains to agriculture – is a no-brainer. I was proud to be a partner in the efforts to get this done.”

The Nature Conservancy Director for Science in North America Joe Fargione

“Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time, and farmers are on the frontlines. Putting more trees in agricultural landscapes is a win for farmers and a win for nature. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing more carbon in the soil, and it helps farmers’ bottom line by creating an expanded revenue stream.”

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden

“By supporting innovative and environmentally friendly logging and farming practices as well as expanding market opportunities, this funding is a win-win for producers as well as our climate. We are particularly pleased that USDA is investing in two projects that are being spearheaded in Maine. This funding will allow Wolfe’s Neck Farm to launch an initiative to help farmers implement climate-smart techniques and access the marketplace for climate-smart commodities. Moreover, this funding will benefit our forest products industry by supporting the New England Forestry Foundation’s effort to help landowners and loggers improve forest health and market locally-grown, healthy, low-carbon building materials. In addition to mitigating the impact of climate change, these projects will provide substantial economic benefits to our rural communities.

US Cotton Trust Protocol President Dr. Gary Adams

“The Trust Protocol was launched in 2020 to set a new standard in sustainable cotton production where full transparency is a reality and continuous improvement is the central goal. The U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program is an important step in providing the necessary resources needed for growers to learn, grow and explore new opportunities that will improve their environmental footprint. We look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack to implement the program’s comprehensive approach.”

US Sugar Beet Association President Cassie Bladow

“On behalf of the US Beet Sugar Association and its members, I want to thank Secretary Vilsack and Under-Secretary Bonnie for recognizing our efforts towards a climate-smart agricultural future. Every day, our cooperative-owned members utilize cutting-edge technology to ensure our products are reliable and sustainable. We look forward to expanding these methods with our project partners and the USDA.”

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