Climate Change Affects U.S. Agriculture
and Rural Communities
Climate change presents real threats to U.S. agricultural production, forest resources, and rural economies. Producers and land managers across the country are experiencing climate impacts on their operations through shifting weather patterns and increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods, drought, and wildfire.
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These threats have significant implications—not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners—but also for surrounding communities and all Americans.
The Department is developing a comprehensive strategy centered on voluntary incentives that is inclusive for all agricultural producers, landowners, and communities, and that builds on the 90-Day Progress Report on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (PDF, 561 KB).
Additionally, USDA’s Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience outlines action items to address the most significant climate risks to agriculture, forestry, and rural communities.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment details how climate change is affecting various land uses in different regions of the United States.
Agriculture Plays a Critical Role
in Delivering Climate Change Solutions
The American agriculture sector has an incredible potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, and deliver lasting solutions to the climate crisis.
America’s producers are already leading the way. In recent years, carbon stored in cultivated cropland soils increased by more than 8.8 million tons annually (PDF, 1.9 MB) thanks to their voluntary conservation efforts. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are ready, and USDA offers resources to help.
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USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides financial assistance and one-on-one technical support to assist producers in implementing climate-smart conservation practices such as no-till, cover crops, prescribed grazing, and silvopasture. This empowers producers to both strengthen their operation’s resilience to climate-related disaster events while leveraging their land’s potential to sequester and store carbon, thereby delivering lasting climate solutions.
A suite of resources for agricultural producers and conservation partners is available at farmers.gov/climate-smart. Producers may contact the NRCS office at their local USDA Service Center to learn more.
Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities
USDA is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity, with projects from the second funding pool to be announced later this year. This effort will increase the competitive advantage of U.S. agriculture both domestically and internationally, build wealth that stays in rural communities, and support a diverse range of producers and operation types.
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On February 7, 2022, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would invest $1 billion in partnerships to expand market opportunities for climate-smart commodities and support America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. Because of the unprecedented demand and interest in Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, and the potential for meaningful opportunities to benefit producers through the proposals, USDA has tripled this commitment to more than $3 billion. On September 14, 2022, Secretary Vilsack announced USDA is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first funding pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity, with projects from the second funding pool to be announced later this year.
Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits. USDA is no longer accepting project applications for this funding opportunity.
This funding opportunity defines climate-smart commodities as being produced using agricultural (farming, ranching, or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. Funding will be provided to partners through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation for pilot projects. Spanning up to five years, the 70 projects announced on September 14 will:
Provide technical and financial assistance to producers to implement climate-smart production practices on a voluntary basis on working lands;
Pilot innovative and cost-effective methods for quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas benefits; and
Develop markets and promote the resulting climate-smart commodities.
USDA anticipates that these 70 projects will result in:
Hundreds of expanded markets and revenue streams for producers and commodities across agriculture ranging from traditional corn to specialty crops.
More than 50 thousand farms reached, encompassing over 20-25 million acres of working land engaged in climate-smart production practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management.
More than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent sequestered over the lives of the projects. This is equivalent to removing more than 10 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road for one year.
More than 50 universities, including multiple minority-serving institutions, engaged and helping advance projects, especially with outreach and monitoring, measurement, reporting and verification.
Proposals for the 70 selected projects include plans to match on average over 50% of the federal investment with nonfederal funds.
This infographic (PNG, 1.0 MB) includes additional metrics on projects from the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities first funding pool.
Visit www.usda.gov/climate-solutions/climate-smart-commodities for additional information, including details on the two funding pools and the full list of projects announced in September 2022.
Combatting the Causes and Effects of Climate Change
Since January 2021, USDA has announced a suite of updates to the Department’s programs, positioning farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and rural communities to be leaders in emissions reductions and carbon sequestration and supporting them in managing the impacts of climate change.
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Reports and Strategies
- A 90-Day Progress Report on a Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy, which provides recommendations and next steps to support the Department in implementing climate solutions in ways that build strong communities, fair markets, and are inclusive of all Tribes and stakeholders.
- The Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience (PDF, 813 KB) (USDA’s Adaptation Plan) describes how USDA will integrate climate adaptation into its mission, programs, operations, and management. The USDA Climate Hubs will continue to play a leading role across USDA to put "Adaptation in Action" by connecting science and practice and through tailored outreach activities.
USDA Agency’s Climate Adaptation Plans identify the risks climate change poses to their missions, and actions they will take to manage these risks to better help agricultural producers, forest landowners, and communities across the country face the effects of a changing climate.
Visit www.usda.gov/climate-solutions/climate-adaptation-usda to learn more about climate risks and USDA’s actions.
- The Biden-Harris Administration released the Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap (PDF, 1.3 MB) in November 2022, an outline of strategic recommendations to unlock the potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. A companion document, The Nature-Based Solutions Resource Guide: Compendium of Federal Examples, Guidance, Resource Documents, Tools and Technical Assistance (PDF, 850 KB) includes examples of nature-based solutions and over 150 resources, including those from USDA.
Conservation and Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry
- Expanded conservation program opportunities to support climate-smart agriculture in 2022, including nationwide availability of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- $50 million invested in 118 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. The Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by NRCS, will fund 2-year projects to expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are new to farming, low income, socially disadvantaged, or military veterans.
- $10 million invested in NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program to support climate-smart conservation practices in 10 target States in fiscal year 2021, with lessons learned informing a national rollout planned for fiscal year 2022.
- A suite of updates to the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program to bolster program effectiveness and target climate impacts. Updates include higher payment rates, new incentives, a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation, and the CRP Climate Change Mitigation Assessment Initiative to quantify the program’s climate benefits.
- $5 per acre premium support for agricultural producers who insured their spring crop with most insurance policies and planted a qualifying cover crop during the 2021 crop year through the Risk Management Agency’s Pandemic Cover Crop Program.
- $330 million invested in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the Nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in 2021. Additionally, $75 million invested in RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (RCCP AFA) focused on climate-smart agriculture and forestry and other conservation priorities as well as improving access for historically underserved producers.
- $225 million allocated for RCPP in 2022, with project proposals for RCCP Classic and RCCP AFA accepted through April 13, 2022.
- $15 million invested to support the development of new tools, approaches, practices, and technologies to further natural resource conservation with a focus on climate-smart strategies through the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program, and $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. These projects will increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help agricultural producers mitigate the effects of climate change, increase the resilience of their operations, and boost soil health.
- Post Application Coverage Endorsement (PACE), a new crop insurance option announced through USDA’s Risk Management Agency, helps corn farmers in select locations improve conservation efforts while gaining efficiencies and reducing costs by specifically supporting the practice of “split application.”
- $285 million invested to support the USDA Forest Service (FS) in improving national forest and grassland infrastructure through the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.
- $218 million invested to fund Great American Outdoors Act projects that conserve critical forest and wetland habitat, support rural economic recovery, and increase public access to national forests and grasslands.
- $15 million invested in FS grants to develop and expand the use of wood products, strengthen emerging wood energy markets, and protect community forests.
Research and Education
- $10 million invested through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in a new program area priority called, “Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships.” Funds support training for the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices.
- $50 million invested for Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements that support historically underserved farmers and ranchers in implementation of climate-smart agriculture and forestry conservation practices.
Biofuels and Renewable Energy
- $26 million invested in biofuel infrastructure to expand availability of higher-blend renewable fuels in 23 States and increase the availability of biofuels by 822 million gallons annually through the Rural Development (RD) Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program.
- $464 million invested in RD’s Rural Energy for America Program and Electric Loan Program to support climate-smart solutions that lower energy costs in 48 States and Puerto Rico.
USDA Resources and Tools
USDA offers a variety of resources and tools to support farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, partners, and rural communities in making informed, science-based decisions to support climate change mitigation and build climate resilience.
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USDA Climate Hubs
USDA’s Climate Hubs deliver science-based, region-specific information and technologies—in partnership with USDA agencies and partners—to enable climate-informed decision making, reduce agricultural risk, and build resilience to climate change. Since 2014, the 10 regional Climate Hubs have helped farmers, ranchers, forest and land managers, and rural communities plan for and manage weather- and climate-related risks and vulnerabilities. The Climate Hubs translate climate science to action to ensure producers and land managers have useful and actionable information about climate change and its impacts to support adaptation, mitigation, and resilience efforts.
The Hubs provide:
- Tools, technologies, and resources.
- Regional assessments of risk and vulnerability and user-friendly information and data.
- Outreach, education, engagement, and technical support. Tools, technologies, and resources. Regional assessments of risk and vulnerability and user-friendly information and data.
USDA offers a carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system, COMET-Farm, to help producers quantify their operation’s carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reduction potentials based on multiple management scenarios. COMET-Farm estimates the carbon footprint for all or part of an agricultural operation and allows producers to evaluate a diversity of management decisions. No prior training is needed to use this online tool.
USDA offers the COMET-Planner Tool to support carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation evaluations specific to conservation practices implemented through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Climate Change Resource Center
The USDA Forest Service’s Climate Change Resource Center provides a suite of tools that are intended to help land managers incorporate climate change and carbon stewardship into their decision-making. Available tools range from specialized calculators to maps or models covering a variety of scales and geographical regions.
USDA Office of Energy and Environmental Policy
USDA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Policy (OEEP) coordinates agricultural, rural, and forestry-related climate change program and policy issues across USDA. OEEP houses the Office of Climate Change Program Office (CCPO), which ensures that USDA is a source of objective, analytical assessments of the effects of climate change and proposed response strategies.
Farmers.gov Resources for Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry
USDA offers voluntary programs and services to help agricultural producers and land managers build soil health, sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance productivity and commodity marketability, and mitigate the impacts of climate change while building resilience to strengthen your operation.