Sustainable Agriculture Gets Boost from New USDA Program
Friday, February 25, 2022
The federal government is adding financial support for farmers in Texas and across the U.S. to adopt climate-friendly practices.
This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $1 billion investment encouraging farmers and landowners to implement tools such as cover crops and nutrient management.
Aliza Wasserman-Drewes, executive director of Rural Investment to Protect our Environment, said existing climate-smart program ideas are more of a cost-share model.
"And that is not a way that will really work for farmers to scale up their adoption of these practices," Wasserman-Drewes asserted.
Wasserman-Drewes' group is pushing for a model to pay farmers a minimum of $100 an acre for stewardship practices. Meanwhile, the USDA is accepting applications for pilot projects. Public and private entities from small businesses to tribal governments to colleges can apply.
Wasserman-Drewes feels there are a lot of producers who want to change how they grow their crops, so they can improve soil health and protect surrounding waterways.
But she noted existing programs and markets can leave them wondering if they should take on the risk.
"And the core concern is always, 'Do I invest in my business or do I invest in something that is maybe good for the long term, but I don't have the new-term funding to do so,'" Wasserman-Drewes explained.
Other supporters of the new federal initiative pointed out it leans on the idea of collective efforts, rather than individual farmers seeking reimbursement through long-standing cost-share programs. The USDA said it hopes the initiative will reach historically underrepresented communities.
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