Washington, DC, February 7, 2022 – Today, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the launch of the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) effort to combat the climate crisis by partnering with agriculture, forestry, and rural communities to provide climate solutions that strengthen rural America. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is pleased to see that the Administration took many of the recommendations NSAC put forth in 2021.
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is heartened to see today’s announcement launching the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities, which will finance pilot projects to create market opportunities for US agricultural and forestry products that use ‘climate-smart’ practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits,” said Eric Deeble, NSAC Policy Director, adding: “We applaud the administration’s decision to make awards in two stages, which will help ensure the pilots are broadly accessible to organizations and efforts at a range of scales, as well as the inclusion of a priority on small-scale and historically underserved producer communities in the criteria for both funding pools.”
The program’s clear emphasis on having grantees measure, monitor, and verify carbon, may pose a challenge for projects seeking to engage small and very small producers. NSAC would urge USDA to outline its plans to provide technical assistance for developing and implementing carbon quantification. Systems that are easy to measure, monitor, and verify often provide relatively few carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reduction benefits. It will be essential to share how projects emphasizing monitoring and verification of carbon will permit the participation of highly diversified, small- and mid-scale growers and account for the wide range of environmental benefits that such farm systems often provide.
“NSAC supports programs that: create the infrastructure needed to market crops from resource-conserving crop rotations; support composting systems rather than methane digesters as a solution to livestock waste through compost purchase programs and the provision of compost equipment; and support the move toward perennial systems including agroforestry, perennial grasslands, and perennial grain crops,” stated Deeble.
Effectively expanding climate-friendly systems will require purchase programs, infrastructure and equipment support, as well as market support. Such programs can ensure that farmers who already grow highly diversified systems with continuous or permanent living cover, and who integrate livestock into their cropping systems, will be able to find good returns for their climate-friendly products.
“These farmers and ranchers are our climate leaders, and USDA programs should recognize their important contributions. NSAC would like to see the climate-smart commodities supported by the USDA effectively bolster farmers and ranchers that are climate leaders and enable other farms and ranches to transform their practices to effectively address environmental challenges,” Deeble added.