Habitat & Conservation  |  02/08/2022

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Climate-Smart Benefits of Grasslands and Forests


Press conference launches USDA’s $1 billion Climate-Smart Grant Program for Agriculture

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced a new program to support America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will provide $1 billion for pilot projects that address commodity markets with carbon capturing solutions, oversight and evaluation of those methods, and marketing of the products.

“We were thrilled to hear grasslands and forests mentioned alongside other important solutions for climate, and we know from decades of experience that they’re also imperative for wildlife habitat, water quality, and soil health,” said Ron Leathers, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Chief Conservation Officer. “Well managed woodlands and grasslands sequester carbon at an incredible rate and create the kind of climate-smart commodity Secretary Vilsack and USDA are trying to incentivize. We look forward to engaging in this conversation while helping farmers, ranchers, and corporate partners align profitability with ecological performance. This Partnership checks all the boxes for the agriculture sector, our wildlife habitat mission, and our supporters.”

Further, Secretary Vilsack highlighted the Conservation Reserve Program – CRP – as an example of a grassland creation mechanism already delivering multiple natural resource benefits, including carbon sequestration for climate resiliency. During his comments, the Secretary emphasized that this new effort is not an addition to CRP or any Farm Bill conservation program, but an entirely new effort to expand the climate benefits of healthy grasslands and forests.

“We have a wide array of conservation programs that can be tailored and targeted to climate smart practices,” Vilsack said. “We looked at CRP and asked how we can focus it on highly erodible land. How can we take it from historic low of around 20 million aces and build it back up? One of the strategies we focused on was grasslands, and the importance of providing incentives for grasslands to participate in this initiative.”

The importance of grasslands and forests to climate resiliency dovetails well with the other core values of Pheasant Forever and Quail Forever. In fact, The Habitat Organization and its affiliates became early-adopters of implementing landowner-focused climate-smart practices and sustainability programs with partners such as Nestlé Purina (Soil Health and Habitat Program), John Deere (Precision Agriculture), South Dakota Corn Growers Association (Saline Soils Initiative), Cotton Inc. (Cotton Sustainability & Quail Population Recovery Project), the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (Sorghum for BIRDS), and the National Corn Growers Association (Pollinator and Wildlife Habitat).

For more information about Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities or to partner with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever for grasslands-based solutions, please contact Brent Rudolph, Director of Sustainability Partnerships, at BRudolph@PheasantsForever.org or (517) 980-4570.