Expanding Agroforestry Project to help farmers and environment

Eligible farmers will be able to participate in the project, which is funded through the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities with $60 million of the $3.1 billion in funding going to agroforestry.

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Farmers across 30 states have the opportunity to participate in a new project that is said to increase their income through expanded agroforestry plantings. The five-year project was launched by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and multiple partners to catalyze significant private investments into the agroforestry industry.

Eligible farmers will be able to participate in the Expanding Agroforestry Production & Markets for Producer Profitability and Climate Stabilization project, which is funded through the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities with $60 million of the $3.1 billion in funding going to agroforestry.

TNC is “processing $36 million … in incentive payments directly to enrolled producers,” Audrey Epp Schmidt, the agroforestry program manager at The Nature Conservancy, said. The remaining $24 million will support the expansion of the project including “monitoring, reporting and verification activities and develop market opportunities for agroforestry commodities.”

The project is said to increase “farmers’ incomes” and deliver “environmental benefits such as enhanced carbon sequestration, soil health, biodiversity and water quality,” The Nature Conservancy said. The project will include training, planning and funds for 12,140 hectares (30,000 acres) of new agroforestry plantings in the U.S. TNC’s goal is to get 200 farmers to join the program with 50 of them being underserved producers, which is defined by the USDA as farmers who are new, have limited financial resources, are socially disadvantaged (either by race or gender) or are military veterans.

Once accepted into the program, farmers are matched with a technical assistance staff member to help develop an agroforestry plan for each farmers’ land. Since U.S. agriculture is responsible for almost 600 million tons of CO2 emissions annually (11% of all the emissions in the country), agroforestry is believed to be a natural climate solution. Farmers who practice agroforestry can “sequester 2 to 4 tons of CO2 per acre per year in plant biomass and soil and have fewer emissions from fertilizers and tractors compared to most other crops,” TNC said.

The program is hoping it will be a model to “eventually spur the adoption of agroforestry practices on tens of millions of acres of U.S. farmlands, including practices such as alley cropping, windbreaks and silvopasture,” TNC said.

According to TNC, the first incentive payments are set to be disbursed in the summer and fall of 2024. The initial application cycle included 213 applications submitted by 21 states, which represented about 20 percent of the agroforestry acreage goals and 93 percent coming from underserved populations, TNC reported.

The next application period’s deadline is late in the summer. To learn more about the program, visit TNC’s website.

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