USDA seeks comments on ‘climate-smart’ ag initiative  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting public comment on an initiative “to finance the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices to aid in the marketing of climate-smart agricultural commodities.” 

The term “climate-smart commodity” refers to an agricultural commodity that is produced using farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sequester carbon, USDA noted in a Federal Register notice published Sept. 29. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the initiative is designed to create new revenue streams for producers through market opportunities for climate-smart commodities. USDA will support a set of pilot projects that provide incentives to implement climate smart conservation practices on working lands and to quantify and monitor the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices.

USDA suggested the initiative, dubbed the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative, could be funded using spending authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Comments are open until Nov. 1. USDA said it is seeking input specifically on:
The current state of climate-smart commodity markets,
Systems for quantification,
Options and criteria for evaluation,
Use of information collected,
Potential protocols,
Options for review and verification, and
Inclusion of historically underserved communities.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called for hearings on the initiative and an examination of concerns, “including whether it is appropriate to use Commodity Credit Corporation funds to implement and carry out this program.”

In a statement published Sept. 29, he added: “I want to make sure that ‘producer-driven’ is more than a talking point. It needs to be the standard.”

USDA separately announced on Sept. 29 that $3 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation will be directed toward efforts to combat African swine fever, promote agricultural drought resilience, relieve agricultural supply disruptions and assist schools in dealing with supply issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these funds, $500 million would be for prevention of and preparation for African swine fever.