Building A Stronger Rural Economy With Climate-Smart Production
At a visit to mass timber development in Iowa this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasizes how the financial support of climate-smart USDA programs are helping to achieve carbon sequestration while creating jobs in rural America.
One of these is the the Wood Innovations Grants Program, launched in 2015. Mass timber is a construction technique that converts diseased and burnt wood into structural material for new buildings that are in turn more fire-resistant than some traditional construction materials.
In central Iowa, several buildings are under construction with this method thanks to the grant program.
“When you think of Iowa, you don’t think of forests. You think of fields, but there is a connection,” Vilsack says. “There is a need for greater treatment to preserve 195 million acres of forest and grassland areas, to reduce the hazard of forest fires that threaten life and property.”
Other programs, like state cost-share funds for adopting soil health and water quality practices have also been announced recently. For Iowa farmers and landowners, that includes cover crops, no-till and strip-till management, nitrogen management.
Vilsack announced an additional $32 million commitment to the Wood Innovation Grants Program and Community Grants program, which focuses on renewable energy.
“The response from agriculture and forestry sends a strong message of the desire of American ag and forestry to be on the front-lines of climate-smart production,” Vilsack says. “We can lead our own economy towards a better climate-smart future, but also the world.”
This innovative building process, Vilsack says, supports forestry and local and regional food systems, which is even more critical in today’s global climate. And as the financial and environmental benefits are realized, more manufacturers may take on projects like mass timber, creating jobs for rural America.
The recent threats to global food security have prompted the USDA to allow Conservation Reserve Program participants in the last year of their CRP contract to voluntarily terminate their contracts. This and other flexibilities in EQIP and CSP are intended to help increase productivity on farmland.