If you follow agriculture news at all, you probably know by now that USDA is launching a Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Initiative. On Sept. 29, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the administration's new plan to promote strategies designed to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities to address the challenges created by climate change. To do this, USDA is preparing $3 billion in investments that will support drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, market disruption relief and purchase of food for school nutrition programs. The support will be made available via the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

Specifically, funds will provide the following:

  • $500 million to support drought recovery and encourage the adoption of water-smart management practices by enabling USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation agencies to deliver much needed relief and design drought resilience efforts responsive to the magnitude of this crisis.
  • Up to $500 million to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) through expansion and coordination of monitoring, surveillance, prevention, quarantine and eradication activities through USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
  • $500 million to provide relief from agricultural market disruption, such as increased transportation challenges, availability and cost of certain materials, and other near-term obstacles related to the marketing and distribution of certain commodities, as part of Secretary Vilsack’s work as co-chair of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.
  • Up to $1.5 billion to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions. These funds will support procurement of agricultural commodities and enable USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to expand the tools available for helping schools make sure students have reliable access to healthy meals.

In addition, USDA is planning on supporting a set of pilot projects that provide incentives to implement climate smart conservation practices on working lands and to quantify and monitor the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices.

This is where your comments come in…..

In announcing this plan, USDA also published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment and input on design of these new initiatives. These comments are designed to help inform the design of these new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiatives.

Below is a laundry list of what USDA is seeking input on:

  • Current state of climate-smart commodity markets
  • Systems for quantification
  • Options and criteria for evaluation
  • Use of information collected
  • Potential protocols
  • Options for review and verification
  • Inclusion of historically underserved communities

If you are interested in helping lay the groundwork on how USDA can more effectively help agriculture address climate change (and maybe make a little more money), you have a chance to weigh in and let your thoughts be known. Time is short, however. Comments are due Nov. 1, 2021.

If you interested in more information on the proposal, you can check out this press release from USDA or the announcement in the Federal Register. To submit a comment, click here. Online instructions for submitting comments, including questions for which the USDA is seeking input, are listed under "Written Comments" and "Questions" subtitles on the Federal Register docket

Remember, turn around time is short, but you can help direct how USDA sets the stage for dealing with the challenges agriculture and rural America is facing from climate change.

I’ll let Secretary Vilsack have the last word on this….

“Through extreme weather, drought and fire, our agriculture producers are on the frontlines of climate change. The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position U.S. farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change. The pilots will invest in the science, monitoring and verification to measure the benefits of these climate smart practices. Today, we ask for public input to inform our decision making and enhance the design of this initiative.”