Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest US$3 billion in agriculture, animal health, and school nutrition. Vilsack also introduced a new initiative to support climate-smart farming and forestry practices.
“American agriculture currently faces unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts,” Vilsack says. “The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every stage of our food supply chain, from commodity production through processing and delivery. Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners increasingly experience the impacts of climate change as severe storms, floods, drought and wildfire events damage their operations and impact their livelihoods.”
The US$3 billion package will support four key areas: drought resilience and response, animal health, relief for market disruptions, and school nutrition programs.
According to a press release from the USDA, US$500 million will go toward drought recovery efforts and promoting water-smart management practices. Up to US$500 million will help prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious disease that affects feral and domesticated swine. US$500 million will support farmers coping with increased transportation challenges, the cost and availability of materials, and other issues around the marketing and distribution of commodities. And up to US$1.5 billion will help schools respond to supply chain disruptions by bolstering the procurement of agricultural commodities.
A new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will also support climate-friendly agriculture solutions. The set of pilot projects will help implement conservation projects on working lands and evaluate their greenhouse gas benefits.
“Through extreme weather, drought and fire, our agriculture producers are on the frontlines of climate change,” Vilsack says. “The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position U.S. farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change.”
The initiative is open for comments via the Federal Register until November 1, 2021.
According to Vilsack, “Tackling these challenges head-on better positions USDA to respond in the future as new challenges emerge.”
Photo courtesy of Dave Hoefler, Unsplash