USDA Funded Program Works With Wool, Cotton Producers on Climate Smart Practices

Producers will be provided with technical assistance and direct payments related to drought resilience, improved soil health, and increased profitability.

A new initiative aims to help wool and cotton producers practice better climate smart land practices that build drought resilience, improve soil health, and can increase profitability of family ranches and farms.

The program, funded through the Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides for $30 million over five years. Cotton will be the focus in the South and in California, while wool will be utilized in New York, California and in the Great Plains region of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota, said Linda Poole, Northern Great Plains Wool Project Coordinator for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. 

“The program is designed to bring together greenhouse gas reduction, emissions and sequestration, along with equity, social justice, including benefits for historically underserved groups – who, in our case – in the northern Great Plains – most of our historically underserved groups are going to be small limited resource beginning-,veteran-tribal members,” she told the Daily Yonder. 

Poole said soil health is key to profitability and drought resilience. 

“The type of practices that we’ll be looking at is people who have farmed land trying to incorporate cover crops into their crop rotation will be part of it, no till or reduced till, if they are people who are already doing that,” she added. “A lot of us with sheep in the northern Great Plains are dealing with drought and at the same time wanting to intensify our grazing, so that we can build soil health. And what that really means is that we’ll be doing prescribed grazing plans that will also require infrastructure investments.”

In terms of the social justice component, Poole said over half of the people who have been onboarded so far are from historically underserved communities. Each of the 100 producers who will sign up to the program over the fives years will create a carbon farm plan, Poole said. Technical and financial assistance will be offered to the producers. 

Poole said there are several reasons why a program such as this one is needed now: Textiles are responsible for somewhere between 5% and 14% of the global annual climate contribution.