WASHINGTON — American Farmland Trust and partner organizations are being awarded a $30-million grant from the USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities to spearhead an effort to transition the U.S. Beef Supply Chain to carbon neutral. The eight-state project will amplify production of climate-smart beef by expanding market drivers, grassroots support networks and early adopter mentors, while also providing technical assistance for the adoption of climate-smart grazing practices to substantially reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration.
“This effort is critical in transitioning the country’s US beef supply chain to one that is more environmentally friendly,” said Beth Sauerhaft, AFT Vice President of Programs. “Beyond this, we will support farmers in protecting their land through permanent easements to help ensure that the soil health and climate benefits from those practices continue far into the future.”
The project will help produce climate-smart beef for all market levels – from direct sales through local farmers markets to regional distribution channels to national and global consumer-facing food companies. The project team will engage and train more than 50 producer mentors, transition more than 750 beef producers, map and increase soil function on about 600,000 acres and permanently protect at least 3,000-4,500 acres of threatened farmland.
“We are excited about the level of impact we will be able to achieve with this project,” said Bianca Moebius-Clune, AFT Climate Initiative Director and Principal Investigator. “We anticipate being able to sequester at least 1 – 5 million tons of CO2e during the 5-year project, but more importantly we project self-sustaining and accelerating expansion of climate smart system adoption and stable, broadly available verified climate smart marketing opportunities beyond the end of USDA funding.”
AFT and its partners will provide a range of virtual and in-person outreach and training. It will further help interested landowners and local land trusts explore options for farmland protection that directly reinforce climate-smart systems adoption.
In addition to AFT, project partners include The Integrity Beef Alliance, Indigo Agriculture, Earth Optics, Freedman Heirs Foundation, AgriWebb, Regenified, OpenTEAM, U.S. Biochar Initiative and many regional and community-based partners.
“The Integrity Beef Alliance is thrilled to have received USDA funding enabling the alliance and our partners to aggressively move forward on the industry game-changing Legacy Beef program benefiting producers, consumers and our planet,” said Meredith Ellis, Integrity Beef Alliance Board Member and Producer Member.
“The USDA grant is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate regenerative approaches to the beef cattle industry that are good for the environment, people, animals and the ranch bottom line. Not only will the Integrity Beef Legacy program facilitate broad market access to higher premiums for climate smart beef for all sizes of operations, but we plan to continue support for underserved producers after the project period by allotting up to 50 percent of Alliance net income as grants to new producers to help offset costs of regenerative transitions,” added Robert Wells, Executive Director, Integrity Beef Alliance.
“Indigo Ag is excited to partner with ranchers across the country, leveraging our experience in soil carbon measurement to better model the benefits of sustainable grazing practices on the environment,” said A.J. Kumar, Vice President, Sustainability Science at Indigo Ag. “A bold, collaborative effort backed by rigorous measurement, this project will help unlock new opportunities for climate-smart ranchers to benefit from the mounting demand for low-carbon beef and successfully move the needle on climate.”
“EarthOptics is thrilled to be working with American Farmland Trust and the other partners,” says Lars Dyrud, CEO of EarthOptics. “With AFT’s assistance, we will be able to provide their Farmers and Ranchers with unprecedented quality and the highest resolution Carbon mapping available today.”
“Freedmen Heirs Foundation is excited to have received USDA funding along with industry partners to identify minority and underserved farmers, launch pilot programs, and provide training on implementing grazing methods that will increase soil health, and sequester carbon, while promoting climate neutral beef,” said Seanicaa Edwards Herron, Executive Director, Freedmen Heirs Foundation.
“Actionable, accessible data is at the core of every US beef producer’s ability to operate as profitably, productively and sustainably as possible,” said Kevin Baum, AgriWebb Co-Founder and CEO. “The support this grant will provide to climate-smart beef producers, both through mentorship and through accessible tech solutions, fuels our industry’s mission to deliver carbon neutral products and empowers those doing the real work to make it happen.”
“The U.S. Biochar Initiative is looking forward to collaborating to promote the successful integration of sustainably sourced, climate smart biochar amendments into regenerative grazing and manure management. This AFT-led project will create markets and help the biochar industry scale up for permanent carbon removal which enhances nutrient management, soil health, and long-term biological carbon sequestration,” said Tom Miles, USBI Executive Director.
“The Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management (OpenTEAM) and Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment is honored to collaborate with AFT and others in such a rich and growing community dedicated to providing the best possible agricultural knowledge to all, regardless of scale, culture or geography,” said Dorn Cox, Research Director, OpenTEAM Community. “We celebrate our work together as a first important step in a larger human endeavor that will support urban and rural economies based on regenerating our working landscapes and the critical shared technological infrastructure needed for transformative change.”
–American Farmland Trust