USDA Dollars To Build On Farmers’ Success

Image courtesy of Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.

The partners in a new broad climate-smart initiative say there’s potential of the project to greatly expand farmer-led conservation practices and business opportunities.

The groups, which include Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, will get up to $50 million from USDA through its new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The initiative aims to help farmers implement sustainability projects that reduce their carbon footprint, document the improvements and demonstrate value in the supply chain.

“Farmers are doing incredible work with innovative practices that build healthy soils, protect water quality and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” says Edge CEO Tim Trotter. “With this initiative, we can bring more farms into the fold while positioning them for business opportunities in a marketplace that rewards sustainability.”

Edge is spearheading the project ― Farmer-led Climate Smart Commodities Initiative: Building Success from the Ground Up ― involving 14 partners and dozens of supporting companies, organizations, government agencies and others.

Keith Braun, director of farm sustainability, cream sales and milk procurement for Agropur, says the award is an opportunity to help U.S. dairy producers make progress on their sustainability journeys.

“We are proud to support Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative’s efforts to accelerate climate-smart practices at the farm and then help process that environmentally friendly milk into nutritious dairy products for our customers,” Braun says.

The initiative goes beyond dairy as well to involve other commodities.

“The beet sugar industry is excited to launch projects to implement climate-smart production practices that further nutrient stewardship,” says Cassie Bladow, president of the U.S. Beet Sugar Association. “Funding from USDA’s new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program will allow sugarbeet growers to take a leadership role in implementing sustainable practices and position the industry for a sustainable future.”

The initiative will build off a first-of-its-kind framework for farm-level sustainability projects, which helps farmers determine what climate-smart production practices are most effective for their farms and provides tools to document the environmental and financial effects. The framework is currently being applied in projects involving farmers and others in the dairy food supply chain in the Midwest.

“Customers want assurances that the food they buy is being produced in a way that’s sensitive to the environment,” says Lauren Brey, managing director of Farmers for Sustainable Food, a nonprofit organization of food system partners that helped develop the framework. “Demonstrating this starts at the farm but also has implications for businesses throughout the supply chain. We are excited to have a greater opportunity through the USDA grant to empower our farmers.”

All partners in the Edge initiative:

AgCentric, Minnesota State Farm Business Management
Center for Farm Financial Management
Clean Wisconsin
Farmers for Sustainable Food
Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance
Headwaters Agriculture Sustainability Partnership
Houston Engineering, Inc.
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
The Nature Conservancy
University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension
U.S. Beet Sugar Association, American Sugar Beet Growers Association
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

See a previous Mid-West Farm Report story about the grant announcement: