By Jean Lotus, PanXchange
The United States Department of Agriculture included two significant hemp projects, one tied to carbon sequestration, in the first list of $3.5 billion Climate Smart Commodities grants announced Wednesday by Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The projects help develop and market climate-smart commodities, giving a voluntary, market-driven boost to commodity crops that are sustainably produced, Vilsack said.
Additionally, the efforts will “quantify, monitor, verify, and report the greenhouse gas benefits from the projects,” Vilsack said. Grants are being funded through the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.
A total of 70 high-dollar grants were announced among more than 1,000 applicants to the programs.
“We were overwhelmed by the response,” said Vilsack. The USDA upped the total award amounts to $3.5 billion from an originally announced $1 billion.
Over the life of the ag projects, the USDA is hopeful of recording more than 50 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent and greenhouse gas reductions, Vilsack said.
“That’s equal to about 10 million cars being taken off the road,” he added.
Hemp was among the commodities targeted by USDA to develop agricultural markets that would sequester CO2 and greenhouse gases through climate-smart practices. Other crops and industries included forestry, dairy, livestock, cotton, peanuts and nut crops, fruit, vegetables and specialty crops, Vilsack said.
- Industrial Hemp for Fiber and Grain
A $15 million grant to provide open-access industrial fiber and grain supply chain data in a digital marketplace was awarded to Atlanta, GA-based Iconoclast Industries, LLC, led by Ryan LaRocca. The project will also develop an inclusive workforce skilled in climate-smart practices, financially supporting underserved producers as they learn these practices, USDA said. The project includes industrial hemp partners as well as some medical marijuana and cannabinoid hemp partners.
Major partners in the hemp industry included Nashville-based Ganjanesh Bioscience; Montana’s INDHEMP; Utah’s Global Hemp Association, Illinois-based 357 Hemp Logistics, Minorities for Medical Marijuana; Canndigenous and EntreVation LLC. Several universities are listed as partners including: University of Florida, University of Georgia, Stockton University and Stillman College. Projects will take place in Florida, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
- Scaling Up the Industrial Hemp Supply Chain as Carbon Negative Feedstock for Fuel and Fiber
A $5 million grant was awarded to Jefferson City, MO-based Lincoln University to help commercialize and market climate-smart hemp crops while driving soil carbon sequestration and climate resilience. The project will also implement new genetics and management practices to increase sustainability of hemp as an annual crop in the United States, the USDA said.
Other partners include the DC-based National Hemp Association, San Jose, CA-based DTE Materials; Murray, KY-based HempWood, Kansas-based Midwest Natural Fiber, Colorado-based New West Genetics; New Haven, CT-based REA Resource Recovery Systems; and Missouri-based Rockwater and Winston-Salem, NC-based Renaissance Fiber. University and state partners include Oklahoma State University, Prairie View A&M University, St. Louis University, Southeast Missouri State University and University of Missouri. Projects will take place in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
Hemp was additionally mentioned as one of multiple crops in other climate-smart projects in several other grants:
- $90 million: ADM and Partners’ Climate-Smart Solutions
- $50 million: Oregon State University: Climate-Smart Potatoes from the Pacific Northwest: Managing Soil Health for Climate-Smart Outcomes
- $65 milion Texas A & M Agrilife Research: Texas Climate-Smart Initiative
The USDA will announce a slew of other smaller grants between $250,000 and $5 million at a later date, totaling 450 total grant recipients, Vilsack said.