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USDA awards grants to farm groups leading environmental efforts

Pictured: USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to reporters at Commodity Classic on Friday, March 11, 2022. (IARN Stock Photo)

United States Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was a featured speaker at the Commodity Classic mainstage on Friday March 10th in Orlando Florida. At a time of volatile commodity prices and high input costs, Vilsack says that farmers, ranchers, and producers need to work to build multiple income streams on their operations.

On Friday Secretary Vilsack also announced that the USDA received $3 billion in applications from more than 350 independent businesses from 47 states and 2 territories for the first two rounds of a new grant program to add innovative domestic fertilizer production capacity.

While grants such as this can make a difference in lowering input costs, Secretary Vilsack says that farmers need to focus on diversifying their operations to create multiple streams of income in the future.

Vilsack says that Climate-Smart Commodities are the way in which middle class farmers can diversify their income.

USDA is investing more than $3.1 billion for 141 projects through this effort. On September 14, 2022, Secretary Vilsack announced USDA would be investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. On December 12, 2022, he announced $325 million will be invested in an additional 71 projects under the second funding pool.

Secretary Vilsack signed two of the grant agreements at Commodity Classic. The first is a $95 million grant to Farmers for Soil Health, a farmer led cover crop program. The program is a collaboration of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board, the National Pork Board, and other partners, with a goal of encouraging farmers to expand their adoption of cover crops to 30 million acres nationwide by 2030.

The second $95 million grant that was signed Friday is the Midwest Climate-Smart Commodities Project. The project is led by the Iowa Soybean Association and partners such as PepsiCo, Cargill, and Target. The five-year program will provide direct financial incentives for farmers operating in 12 states to implement on-farm practices resulting in positive environmental outcomes.