Programs Encourage Growth of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Farming

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Sep 30, 2022

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Sustainable Farming

(Credit: Pixabay)

Funding and programs by organizations, academic institutions, and the US government to encourage and advance sustainable agriculture are increasing across the country.

This month the US Department of Agriculture said it is investing $2.8 billion for 70 pilot projects that will help reach 50,000 farms engage in what it calls climate-smart production practices and sequester 50 million metric tons of carbon over the length of the projects. The projects will also provide financial and technical assistance to implement these measures on working lands, as well as use methods to monitor emissions and market sustainable products.

Virginia Tech is among the institutions receiving financing for sustainable farming. The $80 million grant from the USDA will pay agricultural producers to implement sustainable practices.

In a separate effort, Nationwide and Ohio State University are partnering to form the AgTech Innovation Hub. Nationwide is investing $2 million toward the initiative, which will work to encourage new systems that help manage and mitigate climate risk.

The EPA says agriculture represents approximately 11% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This comes from the soil, crop production, and livestock. Among the ways improvements can be made is by enhancing soil management, controlling the way manure is handled, and capturing methane to turn into renewable energy, the EPA says. Carbon sequestration is another important piece of sustainability in agriculture. Carbon can essentially be naturally captured by plants in soil.

The USDA program, called Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, received more than 450 proposals asking for grants from $5 million to $100 million. Proposals for the 70 selected projects include plans to match funding by at least 50%.

Virginia Tech expects to distribute at least $54 million directly to producers to enact sustainability practices. The grant, which is the largest in the university’s history, will create a three-year pilot program in Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and the university will test the feasibility of expanding it nationwide.

The program will pay producers $100 per acre or animal unit for voluntary adoption of climate-smart practices. Virginia Tech says the pilot will reach 5,200 operations representing 600,000 acres. The university says only about 3% of producers currently participate in carbon reduction programs and if implemented nationwide could help reduce agricultural emissions by 55% over the next decade.

The AgTech Innovation Hub is promoting innovation and research that includes enhancing products or manufacturing processes and potential collaborations across industries. The effort could help improve supply chain sustainability and address other challenges in food and agriculture systems, the partnership says.

“From carbon sequestration to adopting new technologies to further green farming practices, this partnership will help establish best practices to safeguard both our food supply and our environment for future generations,” says Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson.

More companies are focusing on making their agricultural operations more sustainable. Over the past year, Kellogg has invested $2 million to help rice farmers in Louisiana reduce their emissions, Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation started a regenerative cotton program that could eliminate 1 million metric tons of carbon by 2026, and Walmart helped fund vertical farming company Plenty.

A Cargill program also pays farmers for the amount of carbon they sequester. Additionally, McDonald’s and PepsiCo are founding members of a group called AgMission, which has a goal of helping the agriculture industry achieve net-negative emissions.

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