On Tuesday, February 8, USDA announced its new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot program. This program will aid in the fight against climate change by investing $1 billion, via USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, to provide incentives to agricultural producers and landowners to:
- Implement climate-smart production practices, activities, and systems on working lands (such as low- or no-till, rotational grazing, cover crops, nutrient management, etc.);
- Measure, monitor, and quantify the climate benefits of these practices (e.g. reducing greenhouse gas emissions, capturing carbon in the soil, etc.);
- Develop markets and promote the resulting climate-smart commodities.
USDA defines a climate-smart commodity as “an agricultural commodity that is produced using agricultural (farming, ranching or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon.
Who is eligible to apply?
- State governments
- Special district governments
- Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
- City or township governments
- Small businesses
- Private institutions of higher education
- County governments
- Native American tribal organizations (other than federally recognized tribal governments)
- For-profit organizations, other than small businesses
- Public and state controlled institutions of higher education
- Native American tribal governments (federally recognized)
- Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
Application deadlines: May 6, 2022 and June 10, 2022
First funding pool (May 6 deadline): Proposals from $5 million to $100 million. These projects will be large-scale pilot projects that emphasize the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and include direct, meaningful benefits to a representative cross-section of production agriculture, including small and/or historically underserved producers.
Second funding pool (June 10 deadline): Proposals from $250,000 to $4,999,999 million. These projects are limited to particularly innovative pilot projects that should emphasize enrollment of small and/or underserved producers and/or monitoring, reporting, and verification activities undertaken at minority-serving institutions.
Climate change is an increasing and persistent threat to agriculture, disrupting food production across the country and throughout the rest of the world. Farmers are and have been on the frontlines of the climate crisis, with young and BIPOC farmers all the more so.
It is imperative that program applications benefit young, BIPOC, beginning, and diversified farmers who are already more likely to utilize climate-smart agricultural practices on their farms. These farmers are essential to creating peer-to-peer support, multigenerational and multiracial education, and awareness of voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture. They should be compensated and recognized for this labor/service.
Additionally, Young Farmers hopes that at least 50% of funding available through this program is allocated to smaller applicants. We are concerned that any program that includes carbon sequestration, monitoring, and evaluation will be dominated by larger parties, thus increasing consolidation and reducing market opportunities for smaller producers. Small scale, intentional stewardship is what will yield the greatest, longest-lasting impacts and will be most equitable for farmers. Our hope is that small scale, diversified farmers, including young farmers and farmers of color who have faced systemic discrimination at the hands of USDA and have been historically underserved and excluded, will be able to benefit from this program and included in the proposed pilots.
Successful applications will be ones that create new partnerships, advance equity in their region, and create innovative ways to measure, monitor, and verify greenhouse gas emission reductions, all while benefiting young and BIPOC farmers and those who are already implementing climate-smart agricultural practices on their farms.
Below are additional recommendations for organizations and other parties that intend to apply to the program.
- The USDA encourages multiple partners to collaborate on projects. This is a great opportunity for small producers, diversified producers, and BIPOC producers to work together and play to each other’s strengths on an innovative project.
- Ensure that the application clearly outlines how the work that will be undertaken will create the greatest climate benefit. Climate-smart agricultural practices are often part of a holistic approach to improving soil health and creating climate resilience.
- For applicants in the second funding pool ($250,000 to $4,999,999), proposals are limited to plot projects with a focus on enrollment of small and/or underserved producers, and/or monitoring, reporting and verification activities at minority-serving institutions. For these proposals, the equity and outreach criteria will be weighted more heavily than other application criteria. Young and BIPOC farmers are often met with staff at USDA that lack the cultural competency to advise young farmers because of the types of operations they run. Applicants should focus on the clear and measurable ways their programs will advance racial equity and environmental justice in their communities. Consider the ways that the application can improve outreach and relationships between producers and USDA staff.
- In your application, consider taking a pre-existing Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) project and scaling it up.
If you are a BIPOC-led organization in need of additional application support, please reach out to Jaklyn Van Manen, Development Director at email@example.com, or Silas Jones, Grant Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.