ANKENY — The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) has been awarded nearly $100 million for creation of the Midwest Climate-Smart Commodity Program administered by the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund (SWOF). The grant was awarded through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.
The five-year program will provide direct financial incentives for farmers operating in Iowa and 11 other states to implement on-farm practices resulting in positive environmental outcomes.
“It’s a unique and historic grant that will accelerate public and private partnerships necessary to achieve sustained improvements in air and water quality,” says Kirk Leeds, ISA CEO. “We’ve long touted this model, with farmers leading the way and being rewarded for implementing practices that have far-reaching benefits.”
AgOutcomes, an ISA wholly owned subsidiary, and ReHarvest Partners, joined in 2020 to launch the SWOF. The SWOF provides financial incentives directly to farmers who transition to on-farm conservation practices verified to have multiple environmental benefits.
Adam Kiel, SWOF Managing Director, says the USDA grant will build upon its successes in connecting farmers with market opportunities and revenue streams resulting from the transaction of environmental outcomes to public and private partners. These outcomes are essential to meeting regulatory and voluntary goals, including scope 3 greenhouse gas emission insets and water quality improvements.
“By stacking together the many positive environmental outcomes of on-farm conservation practices, we deliver outcome-based payments to our farmer partners and extremely competitive environmental outcome pricing to our partners,” Kiel said. “This innovative approach, connection to farmers across a large geographical area, and proven track record of results were a perfect match for a USDA Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities investment.”
Leeds, who also serves as President and CEO of AgOutcomes, said USDA funding combined with $66.1 million in corporate commitments for outcome-based payments to farmers will significantly enhance work with farmers to incorporate climate smart practices on millions of acres of farmland in 12 states.
“Iowa’s soybean farmers were key in launching SWOF and we appreciate the opportunity we have been given to leverage these early investments with the dollars being provided by USDA and our other partners,” he added.
In addition to supporting farmers, funding will also be used for farmer enrollment and technical assistance, as well as outcome quantification, measurement, reporting and verification. The project will produce real world data on the costs and benefits of implementation to farmers and the environment and support the development of markets for climate-smart commodities.
ISA affiliate organizations, including Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, were also announced as partner recipients on two additional grants through the USDA program. These projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon sequestration for corn, soybean, pork and beef commodities, while creating transformational opportunities for small and historically underserved producers.