Vilsack (And Dollars) Come To Wisconsin

The USDA is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 “climate-smart” projects. Sixteen of these may impact Wisconsin.

The dollars come from the first pool of Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities. Projects from the second pool of funding will be announced later this year. Ultimately, USDA’s anticipated investment is more than $3 billion in pilots.

These initial projects will expand markets for climate-smart commodities and leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production.

“There is strong and growing interest in the private sector and among consumers for food that is grown in a climate-friendly way,” says USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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.”

Vilsack visited WinField United Field Facility in River Falls and Anibas Family Farm in Arkansaw today to recognize the climate-smart dollars coming to Wisconsin.

Three of the 16 that impact Wisconsin include:

Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program: Building a Multi-stakeholder Path to Produce, Market
and Promote Climate-Smart Commodities Across the U.S.
— The grant will provide technical and financial resources to accelerate the adoption of 1,200 new carbon reduction and removal projects on 500 Organic Valley member-farms across rural America over the next five years. Through this program, Organic Valley will include direct farmer payments for carbon reduction and removal, as well as cost-share for design and implementation of climate-smart agriculture practices.

Vilsack said: “I’m glad to have the opportunity to join stakeholders at Organic Valley to highlight our strong partnership in increasing the competitive advantage of U.S agriculture, building wealth that stays in rural communities, and supporting new revenue streams for America’s climate-smart producers.”

See a previous Mid-West Farm Report story on the carbon insetting program:

Incentivizing Climate-Smart Growing Practices, expanding climate-smart markets and developing
brand awareness
— This project will use selected practices from USDA’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service to educate, train, incentivize, and measure farming practices that reduce
greenhouse gases, as well as brand and develop a market for climate-smart commodities. Lead partner:
The DeLong Co., Inc.

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative Farmer-led Climate Smart Commodities Initiative: Building
Success from the Ground Up
— This project will expand climate-smart markets and establish dairy and
sugar as climate-smart commodities by implementing climate-smart production practices, improving
business practices, improving business practices for climate-smart commodities, and making use of data
and information collected to inform future standards. Lead partner: Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative

Edge will get up to $50 million for its initiative. Edge President Brody Stapel says the dollars are an opportunity for the co-op to empower its members as they adapt to an evolving marketplace.

“Over the past seven years, we and our partners have built a nationally recognized model for high-impact, tailored agricultural sustainability projects, and we have proven its success in a network of farmer-led conservation groups,” Stapel says. “Now, we will be able to greatly expand these efforts, connecting more farmers with tools to implement and measure climate-smart practices, and better positioning their businesses for long-term success.”

More On The USDA Dollars

More than 350 entities submitted more than 450 project proposals in this first funding pool. This led USDA to increase its investment from an initial $1 billion.

The first 70 projects included proposals ranging from $5 million to $100 million. The proposals include plans to match, on average, over 50 percent of the federal investment with nonfederal funds. 

USDA will work with the applicants to finalize the scope and funding levels in the coming months. A complete list of projects identified for this first round of funding, including the 16 projects that may impact Wisconsin, are here:

USDA anticipates that these projects will result in:

— Hundreds of expanded markets and revenue streams for producers and commodities across ag ranging from traditional corn to specialty crops.
— More than 50,000 farms reached, encompassing more than 20-25 million acres of working land engaged in climate-smart production practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management.
— More than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent sequestered over the lives of the
projects. This is equivalent to removing more than 10 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles
from the road for one year.
— More than 50 universities, including multiple minority-serving institutions, engaged and helping
advance projects.

USDA is currently evaluating project proposals from the second Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding pool, which includes funding requests from $250,000 to just under $5 million.