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USDA Taps Trust Protocol to Lead Climate Smart Cotton Program

The U.S Cotton Trust Protocol announced Wednesday it will be the lead and is the recipient of the U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program, which will receive $90 million in funding as one of those selected as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities pilot projects.

The project will build markets for climate-smart cotton and provide technical and financial assistance to more than 1,000 U.S. cotton farmers to advance adoption of climate smart practices on more than 1 million acres. This will allow the production of more than 4 million bales of Climate Smart Cotton over five years.

“The Trust Protocol was launched in 2020 to set a new standard in sustainable cotton production where full transparency is a reality and continuous improvement is the central goal,” said Gary Adams, president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. “The U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program is an important step in providing the necessary resources needed for growers to learn, grow and explore new opportunities that will improve their environmental footprint. We look forward to working with [Agriculture Secretary James] Vilsack to implement the program’s comprehensive approach.”

USDA announced details of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity on Feb. 7. Through this new program, USDA will finance partnerships to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities via a set of pilot projects lasting one to five years. Pilots will provide technical and financial assistance to producers who implement climate-smart practices on a voluntary basis on working lands; pilot innovative and cost-effective methods for quantification, monitoring, reporting, and verification of greenhouse gas benefits, and market the resulting climate-smart commodities.

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Vilsack announced Wednesday that the Biden-Harris Administration through the USDA is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity, with projects from the second funding pool to be announced later this year. Ultimately, USDA’s anticipated investment will triple to more than $3 billion in pilots that will create market opportunities for American commodities produced using climate-smart production practices.

These initial projects will expand markets for climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and provide direct, meaningful benefits to production agriculture, including for small and underserved producers.

“Through today’s announcement of initial selections for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, USDA is delivering on our promise to build and expand these market opportunities for American agriculture and be global leaders in climate-smart agricultural production,” Vilsack said. “This effort will increase the competitive advantage of U.S. agriculture both domestically and internationally, build wealth that stays in rural communities and support a diverse range of producers and operation types.”

The U.S. Climate Smart Cotton Program integrates leaders from all aspects of the supply chain from farmer education and applied research, as well as farmers who have successfully adopted practices, to promotion and demand-building, and experts in measuring and quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification platforms to focus on the development and delivery of farmer-centric climate smart U.S. cotton.

The project is a multi-stakeholder initiative that also includes the National Cotton Council’s export arm Cotton Council International, Cotton Incorporated, the Soil Health Institute, the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Agricenter International, Alabama A&M University and North Carolina A&T State University.

The Trust Protocol is overseen by a multi-stakeholder board of directors comprised of representatives from brands and retailers, civil society and independent sustainability experts, as well as the cotton-growing industry, including growers, ginners, merchants, wholesalers and cooperatives, mills and cottonseed handlers.