On September 14th, seventy climate-smart agriculture and forestry pilot projects received $2.8 billion in funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program

Celebrating Climate-Smart Investments on our Journey to a Regenerative Food System

USDA Climate Smart Commodities

By: Wendy Millet

Wendy Millet, TomKat Ranch DirectorOn September 14th, seventy climate-smart agriculture and forestry pilot projects received $2.8 billion in funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, intended to accelerate the adoption of climate-smart practices that sequester carbon and improve soil fertility and water holding capacity. 

This program is one of the largest government investments in climate-smart agriculture to date and the implications are far-reaching. According to the USDA’s estimate, between 20-25 million acres of working lands, and as many as 50,000 farms, could be impacted through the program.

This USDA grant program is a positive signal that the interconnection of climate and agriculture —and the potential for agriculture to become a climate solution—is gaining recognition. 

The Need for Holistic, Systems-Thinking

While climate-smart and regenerative agriculture are similar in practices used, regenerative agriculture is a principles-based, context-appropriate, holistic approach to managing complex ecological, economic, and social systems using tools and practices to move systems toward greater health and resilience. Both approaches can lead to similar beneficial outcomes, such as increased carbon sequestration and water infiltration with the presence of living roots and growing plants, but adding a cover crop to a large monoculture farm may not consider the systems-impact of having a monoculture in the first place.

Celebrating Positive Steps 

We want to celebrate the many partners, collaborators, friends, and fellow advocates who were listed as grant recipients on the USDA’s webpage. Many grants went to partners who are thinking regeneratively—deeply rooted in holism, and committed to practices that achieve benefits not just in carbon but for water, soil, biodiversity, human health, and communities. 

A Special Shout Out

A special shout out to two partners who have spent countless hours at TomKat Ranch collecting soil samples and helping us develop a deeper understanding of the ways healthy soil can improve nutrient, water, and energy cycles on the ranch and beyond.

Point Blue Conservation Science

Point Blue is part of a collaborative grant led by OpenTEAM (a program of Wolfe’s Neck Center) to launch and support climate-smart agricultural pilot projects on farms and ranches in the Northeast, Mountain West, and California. The project will provide land stewards, farmers, and ranchers with soil health planning as well as technical assistance to access financing for implementing practices such as cover cropping, managed grazing, or no-till planting. 

As part of this project, Point Blue will deploy the Range-C Monitoring Framework (and forthcoming Crop-C Monitoring Framework)—which offers support for tracking and communicating changes in carbon with management—on 1000 Healthy Soils Implementation Projects nationally (see the 2021 scoping paper for Range-C here). Point Blue will also work with partners at Maple Hill Creamery on a separately awarded grant to monitor carbon using the Range-C on farms in Maple Hill Creamery’s grass-fed milk shed, all in service of helping to catalyze the transition toward a climate-smart economy. Read more about these projects here.

Contact: Chelsea Carey, pointblue.org, ccarey@pointblue.org

The Soil Inventory Project

The Soil Inventory Project (TSIP) was selected to lead a grant to enable hundreds of US farmers to implement or enhance climate-smart farming practices across 120,000 acres. TSIP and its project partners will use grant funding to pay farmers to adopt new land management practices, measure and monitor soil carbon sequestration, and model long-term impacts on crop yields and other climate benefits. Farmers will receive technical assistance throughout the 5-year grant period and impact metrics to help make climate-smart brand claims to market buyers. Press release

Contact: Sonali Lamba, tsip.org, sonali@tsip.org

Congratulations to the growing network of changemakers listed as grantees! (See list below and apologies to any that we failed to spot of the many grants awarded!).