April 27, 2023

USDA announces climate-smart grants

USDA announces climate-smart grants 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced climate-smart agriculture, soil health, and nutrient management grants through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. USDA will invest $40 million in 31 projects, as well as a $19 million investment in two projects focused on nutrient management funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). 

“Addressing climate change is a tremendous challenge, but agriculture plays an important role, and we’re grateful for our many partners who are helping us confront the challenge head on. These new projects and agreements are working to mitigate climate change, conserve and protect our water, enhance soil health, and create economic opportunities for producers,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Agriculture Secretary. 

The CIG program is a competitive program that supports the development of new tools, approaches, practices, and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands. These investments emphasize the adoption and implementation of climate-smart practices, including nutrient management, which helps producers manage nutrients and soil amendments to maximize their economic benefit while minimizing their environmental impact. Some of the selected projects include: 

  • MAD AGRICULTURE The Regenerative Catalyst Fund: Activating Climate Smart Agriculture: The project creates a regenerative catalyst fund to help farmers adopt climate-smart conservation practices in the pacific northwest and upper Midwest regions of the U.S. The project will address key economic, logistical, and cultural barriers to the adoption of climate-smart agriculture by building on past project successful models 

  • LINCOLN UNIVERSITY Deploying a Climate-Smart Productive Alley Cropping System (PACS) for Income Diversification and Farm Resiliency: Intercropping a diverse mix of native, perennial species to maximize resilience, productivity, and farm income. The project will demonstrate improved soil health, soil quality, and water quality as well as GHG emission reductions. Alley cropping would involve high-value commodities planted on marginal croplands to increase environmental benefits and economic opportunities for small producers

See all the CIG grant awardees here

RCCP is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. RCPP projects fall under two different categories: RCPP Classic and RCPP Grants. RCPP Classic projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners, and communities, in collaboration with project partners. Through RCPP Grants, the lead partner must work directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not be available under RCPP Classic.

The RCPP to help producers achieve more efficient nutrient management within targeted critical conservation areas:

  • Family Farms LLC will improve soil health and reduce the number of nutrients applied to and lost from cropland in the Mississippi River Basin

  • The Environmental Initiative, Inc. will use “nutrientsheds”, interconnected networks of geographically close farms to move and balance nutrient needs, to mitigate excess nutrient run-off adversely affecting the watershed

“We’re empowering our partners to develop new tools, technologies and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands, and develop cost-effective solutions to resource challenges,” said Vilsack.