Historic $80 million grant aims to help farmers implement climate-smart practices
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The Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences received an $80 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to pilot a program that will pay producers to implement climate-smart practices on farms of all sizes and commodities.
The USDA announced a new funding program that they call partnerships for climate smart commodities. In this, they were requesting proposals to implement pilot programs to incentivize farmers and landowners to adopt climate smart practices. And so we responded to that call for proposals. We will receive an award from USDA in the amount of $80 million, which is the largest single grant award in the history of Virginia Tech. And as part of that program, we're working with a number of partners, 15 partner organizations so far. And that number is going to go up. And we will implement pilot programs in four states: Virginia, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Minnesota. We have a list of practices that will be acceptable under the program. And these are all practices that are approved by the USDA as climate smart practices. So a good example would be planting cover crops. So cover crops are crops that are grown over the winter after your main harvest. And they keep the soil covered. They add organic matter to the soil. And so farmers who have not on those acres previously implemented cover crops can get money so that they're able to do that. So those are the kinds of practices, but there's probably at least 20 or 25 practices that could fit. The whole idea here is that we are paying farmers to adopt practices that deliver public goods. So if farmers adopt these climate smart practices, they can become more resilient to climate change and climate shocks. But at the same time, they're also delivering goods that benefit the public, such as better air quality and better water quality and healthier soil and so forth. So that's really what's behind it, our students then will have the opportunity to see some of these things firsthand. To listen to farmers, to listen to soil conservationist and others who are involved in this. And it's done on a scale that is relevant to the real-world. And so I think that's gonna be a great connection for our students. Virginia Tech researchers are going to be following every step of this, every one of the farms across the four states. And we hope to touch at least 4,500 farms across these four states. Every one of those farms will generate data that our researchers can then use in their research to help us understand what did we learn from this project? What were the benefits, what were the costs? And then ultimately, what can we give the USDA that will help them understand how well this works? What we would love to see out of this project is that our project could serve as one of, or perhaps even the model for a national scale program that could be implemented. Once all of this research is done.