North Carolina A&T a Partner in USDA's $2.8 Billion Climate-Smart Commodities Project
North Carolina A&T will participate in two major projects to reduce greenhouse gases and improve climate-resilient agriculture production as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s major new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.
“We’re in the mix with some very large institutions and some very large projects. We’re holding our own,” said NC A&T College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Dean Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D. “They’re coming to us and we’re capitalizing.”
USDA announced in September that it will invest up to $2.8 billion to 70 projects in the first round of funding in its Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. USDA said it will announce a second round of projects later this year.
The federal agency said it expects these climate-smart projects to expand markets and revenue streams for commodity producers at more than 50,000 farms spanning more than 20 million acres and sequester the equivalent of 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Multiple historically Black universities are among the partners on these USDA-funded projects.
Biswinath Dari, Ph.D. will work with organic and conventional vegetable growers in five Southern states to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon sequestration in the soil.
Dari, a soil scientist by training, will work with small-scale and underserved vegetable growers in five states in the Southern Piedmont to improve sustainable crop production by adopting climate-responsive agricultural practices. He will help identify social and economic barriers that prevent these farmers from adopting climate-smart practices and provide growers with information and technical assistance.
“Climate change is happening, and we cannot deny it,” Dari said. “It’ll be worse and worse if we do not take some steps now to modify its effects.”
Dari said he plans to do multiple on-farm demonstrations at the N.C. A&T University Farm and at farms around the region to show the value of using cover crops, no-till techniques and other approaches to sequester carbon in the soil — a key tactic for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — and improve soil health.
“Seeing is believing for these farmers,” Dari said. “Just talking to farmers is not convincing enough because they have done the same things for years. You have to give them enough technical and financial support and show them the actual science.”
This project will receive up to $25 million in USDA funding. It will be led by the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania nonprofit that researches and promotes organic farming. Other major partners are University of Georgia, Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Georgia Organics, Emory University, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, Clemson University, N.C. State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison. A&T’s funding share is approximately $550,000 over five years.
Bhowmik, a soil health expert in A&T’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, will be working on the U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program in partnership with the Soil Health Institute. This project will encourage farmers in the “Cotton Belt” that stretches from Virginia to California to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices on more than 1 million acres.