USDA announces second round of ‘climate smart’ funding for farmers

By: - December 12, 2022 5:21 pm

Tomatoes are among the crops grown at In Harmony Farm near Earlham. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An initiative that helps African refugees launch new farming careers near Earlham is among the recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s second round of funding for its climate-smart commodities program.

“I think it’s fair to say that farmers, ranchers and producers and forested landowners all across the United States recognize and appreciate the risks and challenges that they face as a result of a changing climate,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Monday. “And we also know that far too often, those risks and those challenges impact and affect farmers, small-sized farming operations, and those who have been historically underserved, perhaps a bit harder than others.”

The Dalla Terra Ranch Foundation will get about $271,000 of federal money to implement cover crops, buffer strips and wetlands for its In Harmony Farm.

That monetary award was among the smallest of those funded through the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, which will distribute more than $3 billion to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture and forestry.

Vilsack announced 71 new participants in the program on Monday that will receive a total of about $325 million, ranging in size from $250,000 to $5 million. In September, the USDA awarded about $2.8 billion to 70 projects of a larger scale.

The program is funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which has most often been used to support farmers with loans and payments and to fund conservation programs of the farm bill.

The In Harmony Farm consists of about 70 acres of farmland where nine families raise a variety of crops to sell locally and elsewhere, according to the group’s Facebook page. At least one of the families consists of refugees from Burundi.

Other recently announced funding that will benefit Iowa farmers includes:

— About $4.8 million to support smaller dairy farmers for climate-smart grazing.
— Nearly $5 million to improve soil and water quality for Native American producers.
— About $4.5 million for organic grain production.
— Nearly $5 million for chicken production that incorporates feed produced with no-till cropland, cover crops and others.
— About $4.5 million for grass-fed beef.
— Nearly $5 million for cover-crop projects that use robotics to measure carbon sequestration.

“We think that we will learn from these projects that, indeed, climate-smart practices do reduce greenhouse gas emissions connected to agriculture,” Vilsack said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.