Virginia Tech has received an $80 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to test a program that pays producers to implement climate-smart practices on all farms that could have a significant impact on curbing climate-changing gases.
Virginia Tech will distribute at least $54 million directly to producers to implement these climate-smart agricultural practices for crop and livestock production. The grant, the largest in the university’s history, will create a three-year pilot program in Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota and North Dakota that will test the feasibility of rolling out a similar program nationally, according to the statement. from the school.
If expanded nationally, the program could help producers reduce agricultural emissions by 55 percent, or 8 percent of total emissions in the United States, after 10 years.
“This is a watershed program that will help the agriculture industry become a leader in addressing climate change,” said Tom Thompson, the project’s principal investigator and associate dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The pilot program offers producers $100 per acre or unit of animal to voluntarily adopt climate-smart practices for public environmental benefits. Unlike previous cost-sharing programs that place some of the financial burden on producers of climate-smart practices, this program pays producers more than the costs of implementing these practices, while also improving their bottom lines.
In Virginia, the college is running the program in partnership with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia State University. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provided support for the grant application.
A website will be available in the next few months to allow producers in the pilot states to apply and enroll in the program.
Virginia Tech researchers develop a model that selects participants to ensure program diversity. At least 40 percent of the participants will be low-service and small producers, at least 2,100 jobs will be created. At least 630 socially disadvantaged or resource-limited producers will participate in the pilot project.
The grant provides $2 million to both Minnesota and Virginia to implement high-value, high-cost climate-smart practices at animal feed operations. The pilot’s immediate impact will be an estimated greenhouse gas benefit of 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and a total environmental cost of $220 million. The national program assumes that multiple climate-smart practices applied to a single cropland and livestock after ten years would generate $440 billion in total environmental benefits, with a benefit-to-cost ratio of 5:1. the program.
Producers receive 50 percent up front, 25 percent after implementation and 25 percent after the final report is completed. Producers with limited resources may qualify for a 100 percent down payment.
Some of the climate-smart practices in the program include:
- Crop practices; cover crops; no-till until reduced; substance management, including proper substance management; Conservation crop rotation; silpopasture; Protection of watershed forests; Riparian vegetation cover.
- Rice habits: Surviving management, no-till; Surviving management, reduced to; Irrigation water management: alternate wetting and drying of water conservation in rice; Conservation crop rotation; Nutrient management including proper application and/or advanced formulations.
- Animal husbandry; Comprehensive food and manure management planning and implementation; Roofs and covers; waste separation facility; Food handling to reduce emissions; Prescribed grazing; Nutrition management; silpopasture.
Each state that participates in the program works in cooperation with environmental protection districts and in cooperation with organizations to ensure that unsustainable producers are part of the program. Virginia Tech works to ensure that program enrollment is statistically representative of the diversity of agricultural occupations in each state.
If this project is approved nationally, Congress could set a goal for further reductions at the minimum level and authorize USDA to increase payment terms for the adoption of the new system without creating an incentive to delay adoption.