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USDA to invest $3 billion in ag, animal health & nutrition

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Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a comprehensive set of investments to address challenges facing America’s agricultural producers. These include assistance to address challenges and costs associated with drought, animal health, market disruptions for agricultural commodities, and school food supply chain issues.

Vilsack also outlined and requested public comments on a new climate partnership initiative designed to create new revenue streams for producers via market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.

“American agriculture currently faces unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts,” said Vilsack. “Through this comprehensive set of investments, USDA will take action to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever, assist producers grappling with drought and market disruptions, and help school nutrition professionals obtain nutritious food for students. Tackling these challenges head-on better positions USDA to respond in the future as new challenges emerge.”

New details on comprehensive investment package 

The USDA is preparing $3 billion in investments that will support drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, market disruption relief, and purchase of food for school nutrition programs. The support will be made available via the Commodity Credit Corporation. Specifically, funds will be used to provide:

  • $500 million to support drought recovery and encourage the adoption of water-smart management practices. From rising temperatures and heat waves, to early snow melt and low rainfall, record-breaking drought has affected producers across the country and has left ranchers with bare winter pastures and short on hay and pushed crop producers to adjust to running their operations with a fraction of the water usually available. This assistance will target these challenges and enable USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation agencies to deliver much needed relief and design drought resilience efforts responsive to the magnitude of this crisis.
  • Up to $500 million to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) via robust expansion and coordination of monitoring, surveillance, prevention, quarantine, and eradication activities through USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. ASF outbreaks have proven devastating in other parts of the world due to lost production and trade. It is critical for all of us to work together to stop the spread of this disease.
  • $500 million to provide relief from agricultural market disruption, such as increased transportation challenges, availability and cost of certain materials, and other near-term obstacles related to the marketing and distribution of certain commodities, as part of Secretary Vilsack’s work as co-chair of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.
  • Up to $1.5 billion to provide assistance to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions. Throughout the pandemic, school food professionals have met extraordinary challenges to ensure every child can get the food they need to learn, grow and thrive. But circumstances in local communities remain unpredictable, and supply chains for food and labor have been stressed and at times disrupted. These funds will support procurement of agricultural commodities and enable USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to enhance the toolbox for school nutrition professionals working hard to make sure students have reliable access to healthy meals. 

This set of targeted investments will address unmet needs in our food system, and complement a suite of programs, the USDA is implementing in response to COVID-19, including the Department’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative and the longer-term Build Back Better initiative designed to address supply chain vulnerabilities and transform our food system based on lessons from COVID-19.

Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative

The USDA is committed to partnering with agriculture, forestry and rural communities to develop climate solutions that strengthen rural America. Today, Vilsack also announced a new initiative to finance the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices to aid in the marketing of climate-smart agricultural commodities. Guided by science, the USDA will support a set of 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. The pilots could rely on the Commodity Credit Corporation’s specific power to aid in expansion or development of new and additional markets. The USDA published a Request for Information seeking public comment and input on design of new initiative.

Comments may be provided on or before 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2021, via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010. Feedback will be used to inform design of the new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. USDA is seeking input specifically on:

  • 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,
  • Inclusion of historically underserved communities.

Comments are encouraged 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.

Insights gained through this process will inform development of a Notice of Funding Availability soliciting Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative project proposals that encourage the adoption of climate-smart practices and promote markets for climate-smart commodities. USDA plans to announce the NOFA this fall, with project proposals accepted early next year.

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