USDA pledges billions for climate-smart agriculture projects and resilience


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today he would use billions of dollars from a depression-era agency to fund a carbon saving program for farms and to help farmers to prepare for drought and inclement weather associated with climate change.

In a speech at Colorado State University, Vilsack said he would transfer money from Commodity Credit Corp. for various efforts, including a pilot program to test the carbon benefits of conservation practices and more closely monitor diseases such as African swine fever. , which appeared as close as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The drought in the southwest has been “inflexible, unprecedented and ruthless,” and farmers in the south and northeast have been overwhelmed by heavy rains and high winds, Vilsack said announcing the first of two injections. in funds – $ 3 billion now for aid, and more in FY2022 for the carbon pilot program, details of which are yet to be determined. “All of these people need help,” he said.

Vilsack’s move is sure to rekindle the debate over the most appropriate uses for Commodity Credit Corp., created decades ago to support American agriculture and keep prices down through the purchase of agricultural products, for example. Republicans in Congress have said they fear the Biden administration will use the CCC to support a carbon bank or carbon markets, by withdrawing funding from its traditional uses – an accusation Vilsack directly addressed today. hui.

“This is not a carbon bank or a carbon market,” Vilsack said, adding that it was “first and foremost a commodity program.”

In his speech, Vilsack presented the initiative as supporting “climate smart products”, or agricultural products produced through practices that address carbon emissions and their effects on the climate.

The Agriculture Department added in a press release: “The pilots could draw on the specific power of the Commodity Credit Corporation to assist in the expansion or development of new and additional markets.

The pilot program will be open for public comment for 30 days, Vilsack said, which is a request for information and suggestions rather than formal regulation.

The announcement also reflects Vilsack’s comments during Congressional hearings this year that the CCC has broad powers and a broad mission to support farmers. The agency has an annual budget of around $ 30 billion.

The carbon pilots would encourage agricultural practices already included in USDA programs, such as the use of cover crops or reduced tillage, and monitor the results in terms of emissions or carbon sequestration.

Of the $ 3 billion, $ 500 million would go towards drought recovery and adoption of water-saving practices; $ 500 million to help producers affected by disruptions in the agricultural market; and $ 500 million to prevent the spread of African swine fever, which Vilsack says could cost thousands of jobs and disrupt the American pork industry.

The National Pork Producers Council welcomed the announcement.

“This is unprecedented both in terms of the amount spent on animal disease and getting the funds up front, before we got the disease in the United States,” said Bob Acord, group consultant and former USDA Animal Health Officer, in an NPPC press release.

But the biggest amount – $ 1.5 billion – would help schools struggling with food supply disruptions, the ministry said.

Vilsack said the initiative will also direct money towards biofuels, which he says will help climate efforts, including promoting their use as jet fuel – an announcement applauded by the Renewable Fuels Association.

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