Mid-Atlantic Dairy Farmers Win in USDA Climate-Smart Commodities Announcement

September 15, 2022

The Conservation Innovation Fund (CIF), ESMC, and the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producer’s Cooperative Association (MDVA) were awarded $25 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding pool.

The Mid-Atlantic Conservation Innovation Fund Climate-Smart Commodities project builds on an existing partnership between CIF, ESMC, and MDVA to expand climate-smart commodity initiatives across targeted watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic.

Dairy farmers will implement practices that deliver quantified carbon reductions and water quality improvements in line with verified, validated models that meet stringent sustainability reporting standards.

Priority practices will include nutrient management, rotational grazing, cover crops, and no-till agriculture.

Verified greenhouse gas reductions generated by participating farmers will be marketed for purchase by food and beverage sector corporations to achieve sustainability goals, including to meet net-zero goals, supply chain carbon removal, and carbon reduction reporting requirements.

“We created the Conservation Innovation Fund as a blended, non-profit finance fund to catalyze risk-adjusted capital flows at the intersection of climate and capital,” said Ashley Allen Jones, CEO of i2 Capital and founding board member of the CIF. “USDA’s vision for the Climate-Smart Commodities program moves the conservation finance field to new levels. We’re grateful to partner with leaders across the finance, conservation, agriculture, policy and environmental markets sectors to further integrate sustainability into our commodities supply and distribution chains.”

“Our family-owned farms are a ready pipeline for farm-level implementation of climate-smart practices,” Lindsay Reames, Executive Vice President of Sustainability & External Relations said. “Our farms currently face a year-long wait list for conservation and nutrient management planning. Through USDA’s generous funding, we will immediately tackle the existing backlog of producer demand for climate-smart commodity practices.”

“We are excited to continue working with these great partners to expand voluntary climate smart market opportunities to dairies in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Debbie Reed, ESMC Executive Director. “With this USDA funding, we can expand our market program accreditation for climate outcomes on US dairy operations and meet the demand from our corporate partners for Scope 3 supply chain solutions. This project focuses on local solutions that meet national and societal needs. Working with these partners we will generate credits for soil carbon removals, GHG reductions, and improved water quality to pay producers for their stewardship in the Mid-Atlantic.”

Other partners in the Project include South Mountain Creamery, Stroud Water Research Center, Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition, Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, PennVEST, TeamAg, RedBarn Consulting, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, Shenandoah Valley Conservation Collaborative, Lancaster Clean Water Partners, Virginia Tech Extension, and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition.

USDA received over 400 applications for the climate-smart commodities program and 70 were selected for a total investment of $2.8 billion. The funding pool is intended to expand markets for America’s climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production, and provide direct, meaningful benefits to agriculture.

© 2022 Ecosystem Services Market Consortium

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