FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 09/15/2022
Contact: Katie Commender
Agroforestry Program Director
USDA funds partnership aimed at helping farmers sequester more carbon, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and increase profitability through agroforestry
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $64 million award to The Nature Conservancy and multiple partners, including Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), to fund a 5-year project to advance agroforestry in 38 states across the eastern United States and Hawai’i. The project is one of 70 awards that the USDA is funding through the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. Fewer than 20% of submitted projects were funded.
Partners in the Expanding Agroforestry Production & Markets for Producer Profitability and Climate Stabilization project include: ASD, Propagate, Savanna Institute, Virginia Tech University, University of Missouri – The Center for Agroforestry, Hawaiʻi ‘Ulu Cooperative, Tuskegee University, Cargill, Applegate, Danone, General Mills, Simple Mills, Walnut Level Capital, Live Oak Bank, Agroforestry Partners, Handsome Brook Farms, Epic Institute, The Nature Conservancy, New York Tree Crops Alliance, Trees for Graziers, Yard Stick PBC, University of Vermont, Climate Finance Solutions, Association of Temperate Agroforestry, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa.
“We are grateful to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for this transformative investment by the USDA into the agroforestry sector,” said Katie Commender, ASD’s Agroforestry Program Director. “This funding will catalyze significant private investments into the industry and increase farmers’ incomes, while simultaneously expanding carbon sequestration, soil health, biodiversity, and water quality.”
Despite the benefits, agroforestry currently represents less than 1% of U.S. agriculture. Through regionalized technical assistance and farmer outreach efforts, this project will transform 30,000 acres into agroforestry systems over the next five years, thus building a foundation for scaling agroforestry nationally. Within 10 years, the model for this project could facilitate the adoption of climate-smart agroforestry practices such as alley cropping, silvopasture, and windbreaks on 10% of U.S. farmland.
Because agroforestry sequesters 2 to 5 tons of carbon per acre per year, the level of adoption expected from this project would generate carbon sequestration equivalent to 1-2.5% of 2020 U.S. emissions from all sources.
To increase access to capital, this innovative project will provide $40M in direct incentive payments to producers for tree planting, creating a national network of demonstration farms that will be used for education and outreach. The project will also catalyze new financial mechanisms and business models—such as leasing tree-planting rights to investors—which project partners expect will attract hundreds of millions of dollars of private and institutional investment in the next decade or two.
“With support from this grant, ASD’s Agroforestry Program will be able to provide financial, technical, and marketing assistance to advance agroforestry adoption and profitability in Appalachia and beyond,” said Commender. “Increasing the demand for agroforestry commodities will cultivate new supply chains and develop markets for domestically produced climate-smart agroforestry crops.”
By combining the necessary incentives, outreach, and education through a distribution network of the leading NGOs, businesses, and researchers in the agroforestry space, project partners will increase capital investments in tree planting, thus increasing the supply of agroforestry commodities. Climate-smart commodities from agroforestry systems include nuts, fruits, timber, and products grown amongst the trees like annual and perennial crops and livestock such as beef and chicken.
“Climate change is the greatest environmental crisis of our time, and farmers are on the front lines. Agroforestry can mitigate the effects of climate change, and help our region adapt to its impacts. We are grateful for USDA’s support and look forward to working with a network of innovative partners across the nation to tackle the climate crisis and advance agroforestry adoption,” said Commender.
Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees and/or shrubs are grown with crops and/or livestock. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry has a variety of environmental and economic benefits, including crop diversification, soil erosion reduction, water quality improvement, wildlife habitat enhancement and more. Agroforestry practices include: forest farming, riparian forest buffers, alley cropping, silvopasture, windbreaks and food forests. ASD established its agroforestry program in 2010 with the goal of helping farmers adopt agroforestry practices that support both conservation and commerce.
About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD)
Living Better. Locally. It’s what drives ASD’s commitment to propel its mission to build a thriving regional food and agriculture system that creates healthy communities, respects the planet, and cultivates profitable opportunities for Appalachians. Since 1995, ASD has been working in Central Appalachia, providing hope, and making a difference for the people who call the region home. What began as opportunities for struggling tobacco farmers to grow fruits and vegetables have become lasting solutions to regional challenges that impact economic development, workforce development, food access, health, and wellness. Over the years, ASD has expanded its reach from northeast TN and southwest VA to include partners in WV, OH and KY, enabling the organization to bring resources back to the region. For more information, visit: https://asdevelop.org.