Organic Valley Receives Grant as Part of Historic Investment by the USDA to Help Combat the Climate Crisis
U.S. Department of Agriculture's multibillion-dollar investment will expand markets for climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and provide direct agricultural benefits
With the backdrop of cows grazing pasture at the Anibas family organic dairy farm, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted today historic investments to support projects building farmer resiliency to combat the climate crisis and strengthen rural America. Up to $2.8 billion through 70 projects spanning the agricultural industry were initially selected as part of the Partnership for Climate Smart Commodities funding opportunity, including multiple projects in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The USDA partnership program included a $25 million award to the cooperative headquartered in rural Wisconsin under the project name: Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program: Building a Multi-stakeholder Path to Produce, Market and Promote Climate-Smart Commodities Across the U.S. The grant is focused on helping small organic family farms establish and measure on-farm practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The grant will provide technical and financial resources to accelerate the adoption of 1,200 new carbon reduction and removal projects on 500 Organic Valley member-farms across rural America over the next five years. For Organic Valley, this builds on a new study in the August issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production that shows how organic dairy farming can store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Through this program, Organic Valley will include direct farmer payments for carbon reduction and removal, as well as cost-share for design and implementation of climate-smart agriculture practices. Climate Smart Practices included in Organic Valley’s Carbon Insetting Program include improvements to grazing, pasture and croplands, manure management, feed supplements, agroforestry and solar energy.
“Through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, USDA is delivering on our promise to build and expand market opportunities for American agriculture and be global leaders in climate-smart agricultural production,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to join stakeholders at Organic Valley to highlight our strong partnership in increasing the competitive advantage of U.S agriculture, building wealth that stays in rural communities, and supporting new revenue streams for America’s climate-smart producers.”
The funding will provide the resources needed to scale the Organic Valley Carbon Insetting Program (OV-CIP) from a one-year pilot to a full multi-year program. With funding from USDA and in partnership with more than 20 climate-smart grant partners, this award helps Organic Valley work to achieve carbon neutrality without the use of carbon offsets. The resulting carbon reductions and removals will be applied to Organic Valley-branded products and will help lower the carbon footprint of dairy and eggs. A portion of the carbon insets will also be shared with participating ingredient supply chain partners and applied to their products and climate goals.
“Facing the increasing impacts of the climate crisis, this action from the USDA is vital for the future of farming in the U.S. to weather the current and coming storms. This strategic funding offered by USDA allows us and others to innovate in a meaningful way with farmers and bring to the market climate friendly food,” said Nicole Rakobitsch, director of sustainability at Organic Valley. “Organic Valley is creating a model approach to reducing carbon emissions, and we believe that model can be replicated across the food sector. As we advance carbon insetting, we will share our learnings and best practices. Ultimately, we are excited to offer consumers the products they are demanding in the marketplace: dairy and eggs with a low carbon footprint.”
As part of Organic Valley’s mission, this project will bring increased resources to small family farms. A large portion of participating farms will meet the USDA definition of a Underserved Producer, with a focus on Limited Resource Farmers and Beginning Farmers. Organic Valley will continue working to expand its carbon insetting program while building a stronger foundation for regional farm diversity and climate resilience.