KANSAS CITY, MO. — The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants public input on its initiative to develop climate-smart farming and forestry practices in service of marketing agricultural commodities with climate-smart features.

The USDA in March 2021 posted notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on potential Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forest Partnership Program (CSAF) strategies. The comments, along with the USDA’s “ongoing stakeholder engagement activities,” helped construct a CSAF strategy progress report in May. The administration has now opened a public comment window through Nov. 1, 2021, seeking input on the priorities and program design outlined in the May report “to help test development of a Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Program that could encourage adoption of CSAF practices and promote markets for climate-smart commodities,” the notice said.

The USDA defined “climate-smart commodity” as one produced using farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon.  The USDA said a CSAF strategy would facilitate the expansion of markets for agricultural commodities and suggested it could be developed with the authority of the Commodity Credit Corp. Charter Act of 1933.

The initiative focuses on the creation of new revenue streams for producers through market opportunities for climate-smart commodities, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. The USDA will back pilot projects that provide incentives to implement climate smart conservation practices on working lands and to quantify and monitor the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices, he said.

“Through extreme weather, drought and fire, our agriculture producers are on the frontlines of climate change,” Vilsack said. “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 US farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change. The pilots will invest in the science, monitoring and verification to measure the benefits of these climate smart practices. Today, we ask for public input to inform our decision making and enhance the design of this initiative.”

The USDA said it seeks comments on the CSAF strategy from “farmers and farmer organizations, commodity groups, livestock producer groups, environmental organizations, agriculture businesses and technology companies, environmental market organizations, renewable energy organizations, Tribal organizations and governments, organizations representing historically underrepresented producers, organizations representing historically underrepresented communities and private corporations.”

The administration said input was specifically desired on the following topics:

  • The current state of climate-smart commodity markets,
  • Systems for quantification, 
  • Options and criteria for evaluation, 
  • Use of information collected, 
  • Potential protocols, 
  • Options for review and verification, and
  • Inclusion of historically underserved communities.

Members of the public may leave comments that will be posted online by navigating to regulations.gov and searching for the docket ID file “USDA-2021-0010.”