Ag secretary gives a nod to hemp in announcing $1 billion in climate grants

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Hemp got U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s attention during a visit this week to Lincoln University, where he announced the federal government will offer $1 billion in grants to support climate-friendly farming.

“The hemp project is really interesting because it has so many different potential opportunities,” Vilsack said Monday during a tour of the University’s Dickinson Research Facility, which studies agriculture. “Industrial hemp is just a tremendous crop – the fact that you can have building material, you can have clothing and a variety of other things is pretty interesting,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack reviewed Lincoln researchers’ work on the role hemp can play in sustainable agriculture, the influence of climate change on water resources, and projects focused on hemp and other crops that can be eligible under the climate initiative’s funding guidelines.

Research at Lincoln

Lincoln University is home to the Hemp Institute, which is working to develop farming standards while analyzing the economic aspects of crop production and hemp’s potential in industrial markets.

Grants under the $1 billion program, funded through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, are intended to engage agriculture, forestry and rural communities in the nation’s fight against climate change. The funding program is part of a broader environmental initiative proposed by the Biden administration, the “Climate 21 Project,” which outlines steps the USDA can take to encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners to take up practices that scientists believe can help reduce atmospheric carbon.

Who’s eligible

Projects eligible under the funding must demonstrate climate-smart production practices, activities and systems on working lands; verify the carbon and greenhouse-gas benefits associated with those practices; and work to develop markets and promote their climate-smart commodities.

Grants are available to local, county, tribal and state governments, small businesses and for-profit organizations, nonprofits and universities.

The USDA is accepting applications for projects between $5 million to $100 million through April 8; the deadline for pilot projects up to $250,000 is May 27.

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