The USDA announced Monday a plan to spend about $1 billion for pilot projects for climate-smart commodities, including no-till, strip-till and cover crops.

Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will finance projects designed to create market opportunities for U.S. agriculture and forestry products manufactured using climate smart methods.

“USDA will provide targeted funding to meet national and global demand and expand market opportunities for climate-smart commodities to increase the competitive advantage of American producers,” the press release quotes Vilsack as saying. “We want a broad array of agriculture and forestry to see themselves in this effort, including small and historically underserved producers as well as early adopters.”

Projects must focus on the on-farm, on-ranch or forest production of commodities and show reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission or carbon sequestration as a benefit. The project description specifically mentions cover crops, no-till and low-till among the projects favored for selection, but indicates they won’t be enough by themselves.

“Highly competitive projects will include agricultural and forestry practices or combinations of practices and/or practice enhancements that provide GHG benefits and or carbon sequestration,” the project web site reads in part.

Other management practices include:

  • Nutrient management
  • Enhanced efficiency fertilizers
  • Manure management
  • Feed management targeting enteric fermentation
  • Buffers
  • Agroforestry and sustainable forest management
  • Planting for high carbon sequestration
  • Maintaining forest soil quality
  • Increase on-site carbon storage through forest stand management
  • Alternate wetting and drying on rice fields
  • Prescribed grazing or legume interceding
  • Soil amendments

The funding is divided up into two pools. Possible entrants have until midnight April 9 to enter the first pool, which will include large-scale projects valued at $5-10 million.

A second funding pool targeting “particularly innovative pilot projects” valued at $250,000-$4.9 million will close shortly before midnight May 28.

All submissions are required to be made via

A wide range of entities are eligible to apply, ranging from township governments and small businesses up to private and public colleges and universities. Individuals are not eligible to apply for funding.

The program is a result of public comment sought in September via the website. About 378 comments were offered in response, from ethanol companies pushing for their commodity to be selected to web trolls.