Farmers Union encourages comments on new USDA climate initiative; thanks Vilsack for investment in drought response
Sept. 30, 2021
ST. PAUL – On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined a climate partnership designed to create new revenue streams for farmers and requested comments to design the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. Through the initiative, 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.
Climate-smart agriculture is defined by USDA, in part, as meeting the growing demand for food, fiber and fuel while maintaining and enhancing the productivity and resiliency of natural and agricultural ecosystems.
Minnesota Farmers Union member Hannah Bernhardt, who farms near Finlayson and serves on the National Farmers Union Climate Change Policy Advisory Panel, said farmers need to comment on the USDA proposal.
Comments may be provided on or before 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 1, 2021, via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010. USDA is specifically seeking input 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,
- Inclusion of historically underserved communities.
“We’ve talked about how to measure the impacts of climate-smart conservation practices during advisory panel meetings,” Bernhardt said. “Part of the conversation is about how to reward farmers who have already adopted climate-smart practices. A lot of the focus is on encouraging farmers to make changes to their farming operations, but we don’t want to forget those who are already leaders, and we don’t want to focus on one environmental benefit at the expense of others. All environmental services that benefit our soil, air, water and wildlife habitat have a public benefit and deserve a public investment.
“And, as in other sectors of agriculture, we worry about concentration in potential new markets taking away from farmers’ profits,” Bernhardt added. “Farmers are the ones doing the practices on their land; they deserve to be ones who are compensated.”
Vilsack’s announcement also included $3 billion in investments to support drought response, animal disease prevention, market disruption relief and school food purchases.
“I thank Agriculture Secretary Vilsack for his investments in rural America,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “With the discovery of African Swine Fever in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, it’s vital for USDA to prevent the spread of the disease to protect Minnesota’s pork producers. Hopefully, the $500 million in drought relief will help farmers and ranchers impacted by drought to discover ways to make their operations more resilient to climate extremes. With farmers facing extreme weather events more frequently, they need to be at the table as policies related to climate-smart agriculture are crafted. Farmers can both provide a safe food supply and protect the environment.
“I am also hopeful the $1.5 billion targeted to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions will open more markets for farmers looking to market their products directly to schools,” Wertish said.
About Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to everyone. Learn more and join at www.mfu.org and follow MFU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)