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Agriculture

USDA announces $1 billion to fund projects to help fight climate change

Growing crops and raising cattle emit lots of greenhouse gases into the air that trap heat and warm the Earth. The agriculture sector accounts for about 10% of the total annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a new program Monday as part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 2030. The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, a $1 billion program, will fund pilot projects on farms and forests that curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The USDA is asking for ideas on how to execute practices like no-till farming, nutrient management and manure management on a large scale. Those ideas must include plans to measure and verify the impact from the projects and plans to develop markets.

During a news conference at Lincoln University of Missouri in Jefferson City, Vilsack said consumers and businesses are more interested in buying food produced with “climate-smart” agriculture and forestry practices. He said that will also help U.S. farmers stay competitive abroad.

“We’re trying to incentivize the creation of climate-smart commodities that hold higher value in the marketplace, that farmers can generate additional profit from,” Vilsack said, “and capture that value for the farmer.”

He said export markets depend on competition, and the U.S. will need to be competitive with other nations that adopt their own approaches to agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to get there first,” Vilsack said. “We need to be able to say to the world, ‘we have led in this effort’ in order to maintain and expand those export markets.”

Local and state governments, nonprofits and small businesses can apply for the federal money, which is being funded through the USDA’s bank called the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Vilsack said the USDA wants to make sure that the projects benefit a large swath of agricultural groups, including small or historically underserved producers.

Proposals for large projects seeking $5 million to $100 million are due by April 8. Applications for smaller projects seeking $250,000 to just short of $5 million are due by May 27.

Follow Katie on Twitter: @katiepeikes

Harvest Public Media reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues through a collaborative network of NPR stations throughout the Midwest and Plains.

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