WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement that the federal agency is awarding federal funds to three key climate-smart projects that will benefit Rhode Island.  The funding is part of USDA’s new Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities program, which is investing $2.8 billion in climate-smart agriculture policies and projects nationwide that will help build and expand opportunities for consumers to purchase food grown or produced in a climate-friendly way.

“Rhode Island’s family farmers have been at the forefront of climate-smart agricultural practices.  This latest federal investment takes a market-driven approach to helping local farmers accelerate and expand the benefits of sustainable, climate-smart stewardship of land and agricultural resources,” said Senator Reed, who has supported funding to increase the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices,  reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make the adoption of sustainability practices more accessible to Rhode Island farmers and producers. 

Hardworking family farmers are ahead of the curve when it comes to caring for the land.  And agricultural practices such as cover cropping, grazing management, and agroforestry -- the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits – can offer natural and inexpensive climate solutions to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide, help make soil healthier, help farmers to mitigate and adapt to some climate change impacts, and make crops more resilient to a changing climate.

The three Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities projects that will benefit Rhode Island are:

  1. $60 million for the Nature Conservancy and multiple partners to expand agroforestry production and markets.  Rhode Island is one of 37 states that will benefit from this project, which seeks to transform 30,000 acres nationwide into agroforestry systems over the next five years, thus building a foundation for scaling agroforestry nationally.  It  will also help build climate-smart markets and increase capital investments in tree planting that will increase the supply of agroforestry commodities utilizing a network of leaders in forestry.  Agroforestry sequesters 2 to 5 tons of carbon per acre per year.  The project’s backers say the level of adoption expected from this initiative being scaled up will generate carbon sequestration equivalent to 1-2.5 percent of 2020 U.S. emissions from all sources.
  1. $45 million for Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) Inc., a national dairy cooperative with more than 11,500 family farm-owners, for low-carbon dairy pilot programs.  This project will benefit Rhode Island dairy farmers, as well as farms in 12 other states, by decreasing individual, on-farm greenhouse gasses.  Through collaboration with additional business partners, DFA will work to ensure the financial benefits of climate-smart farming are felt by local farmers and ranchers, establishing a self-sustaining, green economy benefiting U.S. agriculture, including underserved producers.
  1. $30 million for the New England Forestry Foundation’s New England Climate-Smart Forest Partnership Project. This project will benefit Rhode Island and 5 other states by implementing forest management practices with large commercial producers and smaller woodlot owners to store more carbon in forests, quantify the resulting carbon gains, and build markets for climate-smart forest products to store carbon in wood products and substitute wood products for fossil fuel-based materials.

The three projects benefitting Rhode Island are among 70 nationwide that were selected under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. This program’s investments seek to expand climate-smart solutions, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide direct benefits to agricultural producers, including small and underserved producers. 

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that these 70 initial pilot projects would touch 50,000 farmers working 20 million acres across the country.

Senator Reed says it is critical to protect the state’s farmland for future generations and ensure local farming remains a viable, profitable endeavor.  Since 1985, 124 Ocean State farms spanning 8,161 acres have been protected by the Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission, working in concert with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and partners.