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US agriculture chief visits state

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ENGLAND — US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Arkansas on Friday to meet with farmers and discuss new US Department of Agriculture programs designed to increase sustainability.

Funding for these programs is part of the Biden administration’s Climate Smart Agriculture initiative, designed to support pilot programs that will help farmers transition to sustainable farming practices, establish new markets to create and grow sources of revenues and to verify and report data that proves to consumers that crops have been produced sustainably, Vilsack said.

“Farmers, ranchers, growers… across the country probably understand and appreciate the challenges of climate change better than anyone on the planet,” Vilsack said on Friday during a visit to Isbell Farms in England.

“They face it every day, they face it in the form of mega droughts in some parts of our country, wildfires in other parts of our country, major floods that occur periodically and with greater frequency and intensity…windstorms, hurricanes, the whole nine yards.”

“They also know they have a responsibility that they take very seriously, and that responsibility is to be stewards of our lands and waters,” Vilsack said.

USA Rice Federation, Winrock International and Tyson Foods will take the lead on major contracts worth at least $160 million.

These projects will primarily focus on rice production, a few other row crops, and livestock and poultry.

Vilsack announced earlier this year that the USDA had allocated $1 billion to its Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program to be split into two funding pools, but the Biden-Harris administration increased the total funding to about 3, $5 billion due to increased demand from candidates.

USDA Invests Up to $2.8 Billion in 70 Projects for First Funding Pool to Support “Climate-Smart” Projects; 20 of these projects are expected to affect Arkansas.

An estimated 50,000 farmers in the United States and Puerto Rico will participate in the programs, Vilsack said, and more than 55 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent will be sequestered over the five years of the 70 projects.

Proposals for the projects include plans to leverage matching funds of up to 50% of federal investments on average from non-federal sources, according to the USDA release.

Funding for the program will be done in two phases by Commodity Credit Corp. from the USDA. The projects chosen for the second funding pool will be announced later this year.

The USA Rice Federation will receive $80 million for its Rice Stewardship Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities project to help farmers adopt conservation practices that will reduce their water use when growing rice and also help them trying to reduce methane, a greenhouse gas emission.

“For this particular project, we’re looking at 400,000 impacted acres, 25% of which is specifically for historically underserved growers, and what that will do is enable all of those growers to activate climate-smart practices,” Isbell Farms said Mark Isbell, partner and rice farmer.

“We’re still going to impact water quality, we’re still going to impact air quality, we’re still going to impact soil health, but we’re also going to reduce greenhouse gases. greenhouse, and that will have a substantial impact on the climate in the future,” Isbell said.

Isbell Farms produces nearly 3,000 acres of rice annually using zero-grade technology to reduce water and land use and increase efficiency.

USA Rice works with Ducks Unlimited of Memphis, Walmart, the National Black Grower’s Council, Anheuser-Busch of Missouri, Riceland Foods of Arkansas — a member of USA Rice — Arva Intelligence, the University of Arkansas and others for the project.

“The Rice Federation project was the highest rated project of all the various grants [proposals] that were submitted,” Vilsack said.

Winrock International is receiving $20 million to help farmers — especially historically underserved growers — adopt sustainable farming practices.

Winrock also works with Riceland Foods and Arva Intelligence, as well as the Intertribal Agriculture Council.

Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc. will receive $60 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration in beef production and row crops for livestock feed such as corn , and to provide technical assistance and incentive payments to underserved small-scale producers.

Tyson works with Bayer; McDonalds; Scoular, an agricultural supply chain solutions company; Where Food Comes From, a third-party food verification company; Iowa Select, the eighth largest pork producer in the United States; some Native American tribal communities; and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, of which Tyson is a member.