Building a stronger rural economy with climate-smart production

During a visit to Massive Timber Development in Iowa this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted how financial support for USDA climate-smart programs helps carbon sequestration while creating jobs in rural America.

One of these is the Wood Innovations Grant 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 building materials.

In central Iowa, several buildings are being constructed using this method through 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. “Improved treatment is needed to preserve 195 million acres of forest and grassland, to reduce the risk of wildfires that threaten life and property.”


Other programs, such as state cost-sharing funds for the adoption of soil health and water quality practices, have also been announced recently. For Iowa farmers and landowners, this includes cover crops, no-till and strip-till management, nitrogen management.

Solutions for rural communities and global issues

Vilsack announced an additional $32 million commitment to the Wood Innovation Grants Program and the Community Grants Program, which focuses on renewable energy.

“The response from agriculture and forestry sends a strong message about the desire of American agriculture and forestry to be at the forefront of climate-smart production,” Vilsack said. “We can drive our own economy towards a better, climate-smart future, but also the world.”

This innovative building process, says Vilsack, supports local and regional forestry and food systems, which is even more critical in today’s global climate. And as the financial and environmental benefits materialize, more manufacturers could take on projects like mass lumber, creating jobs for rural America.

Recent threats to global food security have prompted the USDA to allow participants in the Conservation Reserve Program in the final year of their CRP contract to voluntarily terminate their contracts. This flexibility and others in the EQIP and CSP are intended to help increase productivity on farmland.

About Keneth T. Graves

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