USDA Project to Advance Climate Resilience for Midwest Farmers

June 27, 2024

The United States Department of Agriculture is investing $10 million in an Ohio State led team to accelerate the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices. The transdisciplinary team is comprised of researchers, educators and experts, including Solutions from the Land (SfL) leadership. The group will work together to advance and co-create solutions for climate resilience of farmers in the Midwest under a five-year initiative titled “From the Ground Up.”

The USDA project falls under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems (AFRI-SAS) program area. AFRI-SAS aims to bolster the sustainable provision of plentiful, cost-effective, safe, nourishing, and readily available food and agricultural goods. At the same time, AFRI-SAS projects seek to enrich economic prospects and advance the enduring health and prosperity of all Americans.

“Solutions from the Land is thrilled to be part of the AFRI-SAS project,” says SfL President Ernie Shea, who is also serving as a co-principal investigator on the project. “Our role isn’t just about coordination – it’s about catalyzing meaningful change. From facilitating farmer engagement to mobilizing key stakeholders, we’re weaving together a tapestry of knowledge and action. Together, we will harness the power of collaboration to pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient agricultural future. This isn’t just a project; it’s a movement, and we’re honored to be at the forefront of it.”

Emerging climate-smart agricultural practices (CSAPs) show potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase carbon sequestration, climate resilience and farm viability. However, according to the USDA, traditional top-down approaches to boost adoption have been slow. This project focuses on working alongside farmers to overcome barriers and find innovative approaches that can accelerate their use on Midwest operations.

The project is funded through USDA’s flagship Sustainable Agricultural Systems program and is led by Douglas Jackson-Smith, professor and Kellogg Chair of Agroecosystem Management in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

“This is an unprecedented investment by the USDA in a farmer-led response to address water quality and carbon sequestration challenges in agriculture,” says Dr. Jackson-Smith. “We’ll be engaging farmers in Ohio and Missouri, major farm states with diverse biophysical contexts where the impacts of climate variability on CSAP performance can be compared across time and space. With this investment, we will spur innovation clusters where farmers themselves identify and overcome logistical, agronomic and economic barriers that make it difficult for them to use conservation practices. We believe farmer leadership through collaborative on-farm research and peer-to-peer learning networks are key to finding realistic solutions that really work on the farm.”

In addition to empowering farmers to lead the design and innovation of practical approaches to climate-smart farming, the project will provide opportunities to train the next generation of students in the use of on-farm research and community stakeholder collaborations as strategies to address future farming system challenges.

“By equipping students with these strategies, we’re fostering a generation of visionaries who understand the intricacies of farming systems and the power of climate-smart practices,” Shea says. “In an era of evolving challenges, from climate change to food security, it’s imperative that we not only work on solving present-day concerns alongside farmers, scientists and researchers, but it is just as important to cultivate a cohort of future problem-solvers who can navigate the complexities of agriculture with both skill and empathy in the years to come.”

Partner institutions and organizations: Led by The Ohio State University, the project will involve close partnerships with researchers, extension staff, and students at Central State University, the University of Missouri, Lincoln University – Missouri, and Solutions from the Land.

For more information, contact Ernie Shea, SfL President eshea@solutionsfromtheland.org

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