Brief: USDA commits $1bn to ‘climate-smart commodities’

February 8, 2022

  • US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that the country’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $1 billion over the next year into “climate-smart” farming.
  • The initiative — Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities — will provide funding for pilot projects that “create market opportunities” for commodities which are “produced using [farming, ranching or forestry] practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon.” 
  • Successful applicants will receive the funding via the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, which they will then provide as incentives to producers and landowners.

Why it matters:

‘Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities’ is the latest in a string of big-ticket initiatives aimed at boosting sustainable food production — including through tech-enabled methods and models — that the USDA has launched since the Biden administration came to power in January 2021.

Speaking at COP26 in November, Vilsack said the agency would invest $25 million across 18 climate-smart innovation projects.

A month before, it pumped funding into cultivated meat for the first time, awarding $10 million to create the first US National Institute for Cellular Agriculture.

And just last week, it unveiled the first-ever Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture, which includes agrifoodtech entrepreneurs such as Gotham Greens co-founder Viraj Puri and Symbiotic Aquaponic co-founder Kaben Smallwood among its members.

For this latest $1 billion initiative, Vilsack acknowledged many farmers are apprehensive about adopting regenerative ag practices due to perceived costs and other pitfalls.

“This program […] can essentially reduce the risk to farmers so that they can learn how to do it and see the positive results,” he told Reuters.

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