USA, Blacksburg. The Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced that it had received an $80 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to pilot a programme on climate-smart farming practices that could help reduce agricultural emissions by 55%.
According to a Virginia Tech press release, the university will distribute at least $54 million directly to producers to help them enact these climate-smart agricultural practices for crop and animal production. 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 that will test the feasibility of rolling out a similar program on a national scale.
If scaled up nationally, the program could help producers reduce agricultural emissions by 55% and total emissions in the United States by 8% after ten years.
“We are proud to lead this effort that gives agricultural producers incentives to enact climate-smart practices and the financial means to do so,” said Tom Thompson, principal investigator on the project, associate dean of the college, director of CALS Global, and a professor. “This is a watershed program that helps the agricultural industry be a leader in addressing climate change.”
According to Thompson, the credit for the pilot concept belongs to RIPE (Rural Investment to Protect our Environment), the lead Virginia Tech partner on the pilot program, and the project will be known as the RIPE Partnership.
The pilot program will pay producers US$100 per acre or animal unit for voluntary adoption of climate-smart practices that deliver more than that amount in public environmental benefits. Unlike previous cost-sharing programs that put some of the financial burdens of adopting climate-smart practices on producers, this program pays producers more than the cost of implementing these practices while also improving their bottom lines.
If scaled up nationally, as much as 80% of agricultural producers could be enrolled in the program, which would make a significant impact on global carbon emissions. Only about 3% of producers currently participate in carbon reduction programs.
Producers also will be able to market their climate-smart commodities to the American public through certificates with tracking numbers. Informed by feedback through a series of roundtables, the tracking system will include information needed by commodity purchasers to meet their sustainability goals.
At least 40% of participants will be underserved and small producers, reaching at least 2,100 operations. A minimum of 630 operations with socially disadvantaged or limited resource producers will participate in the pilot project.
“Agriculture and forestry combine for an annual economic impact of over $90 billion. They are a crucial component of Virginia's economy, especially in our rural areas. Promoting and growing economic development is a top priority for the administration. Ensuring a sustainable and vibrant industry will be crucial for the long-term growth and success of Virginia,” said Matt Lohr, Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.
Source: The Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences