Vilsack Talks About Climate-Smart Funding, Rural Broadband

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Pepin County, Wisconsin, to talk about the recent funding announcement for the Climate-Smart Commodity Partnership opportunity. He says farmers are going to benefit from the 70 projects to be accepted in the first funding pool.

“We’re excited about this opportunity. We think that there are 16 projects, or so, in Wisconsin where producers will be able to benefit. I think there’s a way in which they will be able to ensure that the data that they’re collecting is accumulated and provides direction and help. We’re gonna learn a lot from these projects: 70 projects, $2.8 billion committed to it. It sounds like a lot of money, but there were 20 billion dollars of requests, and over 1000 applications because farmers, ranchers, and forested landowners are very interested in this and very ready for it.”

The USDA is already looking at applications for the second round of funding which will assist smaller projects than the first round did.

“Well, we’re in the process now of looking at those. These are requesting significantly less money, and they may be shorter in time as well. Most of the large grants are up to three-to-five years in time, so we’ll take a look at those The idea here is, I think, to have the same 70 experts review those as reviewed the larger grant applications, so we’re looking for the same kind of opportunities here: are underserved producers, beginning farmers, veterans, minority farmers, are they included? Are farmers who are early adopters not being penalized? Will there be financial incentives or is it voluntary? What kind of partnerships have developed at the universities? How are you going to report and verify the results? We’ll take a look, and we’ll try to fund as many of the quality applications as we can.”

One topic that did come up is rural broadband access which would allow more producers to take part in these programs. Vilsack says is coming soon.

“Well, I think high-speed internet is coming to the countryside because of the bipartisan infrastructure law. We’re going to have a significant amount of investment over the course of the next couple of years to ensure that people have access to that very important tool in the 21st century.”