Mississippi State University is the lead partner on a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct climate-smart projects.
Beth Baker, an Extension specialist in natural resource conservation in agroecosystems, is the lead investigator on the grant project announced Sept. 14. It is one of 70 nationwide that received funding from a $2.8 billion federal investment in climate-smart commodities and rural projects.
MSU’s project focuses on developing climate-smart grain markets in the Midsouth through diverse partnerships and a farming-systems approach to practice integration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“This project seeks to demonstrate the viability of growing climate-smart grains that are sold to local poultry feed operations,” Baker said. “We will develop a pilot program for grain producers to utilize multiple climate-smart practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Investigators will develop a pilot program to incentivize practice adoption, monitor and verify greenhouse gas reductions, and support the sale of climate-smart grains directly to local broiler feed markets, which will simplify supply chain tracking.
“This is a three-prong project that provides funds directly to producers to incentivize them to adopt climate-smart practices,” Baker said.
The first step is to recruit partner producers in a pilot program that will have them adopt climate-smart practices. This also includes early adopters who may already be integrating climate-smart practices. The second part of the project will monitor the greenhouse gas emission benefits and scale the project up from a farm to a regional effort.
“The last component is to track those benefits through the supply chain so that measured benefits stay with the commodity, and we can estimate the economic benefits to buyer and seller,” Baker said.
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“Changes on the farm must be driven through profitability,” said Dan Prevost, a producer and the lead partner at Southern Ag Services Inc. “This pilot project will create a framework allowing basic market principles such as consumer demand to drive increased revenue to the grower utilizing climate-smart production practices.
“While this is not a novel concept, it has yet to be demonstrated in Midsouth grain crops due to complexities in both supply chains and environmental benefits,” he said. “We are grateful for Dr. Baker and MSU for assembling a diverse and robust team of partners that will lead this important and impactful effort.”
Producers will be enrolled in the pilot program following steps similar to those taken to enroll in farm bill conservation programs. MSU has partnered in this effort with Conservation Solutions, a technical service provider for USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. Conservation Solutions will work to process applications, ensure producer eligibility, establish contracts and distribute funds to producers who meet eligibility criteria.
Other partners in the grant include Southern Ag Services Inc., the University of Arkansas and Alcorn State University. Peco Foods Inc. also supports this project.
Corn, soybeans and poultry are the commodities primarily affected in Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.
Those interested in participating in this pilot project can contact Baker for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-325-7491.