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USDA Rolls Out RCPP Grants    09/25 05:00

   Regional Conservation Grants Emphasize Emission Reductions, Including for 

   USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program provides grants to projects 
that bring together multiple groups in a particular area to focus on increased 
conservation practices. USDA on Friday announced 15 grant projects, including 
one in South Dakota to demonstrate carbon sequestration potential for corn 
production that goes to produce ethanol.

Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

   OMAHA (DTN) -- With increasing emphasis on farm practices that target 
greenhouse gas emissions, USDA on Friday announced nearly $75 million in grants 
for 15 projects under its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

   Among the grant recipients is the American Coalition for Ethanol, which will 
work in South Dakota to incentivize no-till farming, cover crops and nutrient 
management for famers supplying a farmer-owned ethanol facility. ACE is 
partnering with the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, Dakota Ethanol, 
South Dakota State University, Cultivating Conservation, and collaborator 
Sandia National Labs, and will receive $7.5 million for the project. The goal 
is to increase market access for low-carbon fuel standards based on the 
greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits from climate-smart conservation practices.

   "USDA's investment in our project to validate the benefits of climate-smart 
practices in further reducing corn ethanol's carbon footprint is a vote of 
confidence in the role farmers can play in reaching net-zero emissions by 
2050," said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. "Further, this project will provide a 
prototype for how clean fuel policies can reward farmers for climate-smart 
practices that reduce the overall carbon intensity of corn ethanol"

   Pointing to President Joe Biden's goal of zero emissions from agriculture by 
2050, Jennings added, "Ethanol can reach net-negative carbon intensity by 
crediting biofuel crops grown with climate-smart farming practices in clean 
fuel markets via carbon capture and sequestration and continued carbon 
reduction improvements at individual ethanol facilities."

   ACE stated that using a GHG calculator, plugging in USDA data to compare 
emissions from cropping systems, the conservation changes converting to no-till 
would sequester an additional 91,000 metric tons (mt) of GHG emissions per 
year. That's comparable to removing 20,000 cars from the road. If those 
emission reductions are credited in California's Low Carbon Fuels Standard 
(LCFS), that would generate more than $10 million a year in new revenue.

   "The market premium we receive by selling our ethanol into the California 
LCFS program is a significant driver for making several process improvements to 
reduce our natural gas and electricity usage," said Scott Mundt, Dakota Ethanol 
CEO. "In addition to the gains we can make within the facility, properly 
structured clean fuel policies can incentivize significant GHG contributions 
from the farmers who supply our corn. Compensating the 500 farmers in Dakota 
Ethanol's grain shed to lower the carbon intensity of their corn production 
through adoption of climate-smart conservation practices would result in 
significant climate and economic benefits."

   USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program provides grants to projects 
that bring together multiple groups in a particular area to focus on increased 
conservation practices. RCPP is listed as among the USDA conservation programs 
that would receive a funding boost if Congress passes the budget reconciliation 
bill. House Democrats released their plan for $28 billion in climate-smart 
agricultural practices, which includes a $4 billion funding increase for RCPP 

   Among other projects USDA announced on Friday:

   -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation received $7.78 million for 
Great Plains Grasslands Conservation in South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Montana 
and Nebraska. The project will take more than $14 million to improve grassland 
restoration and grazing system management on 1 million acres. An estimated 
350,000 acres will be enrolled in perpetual conservation easements as well.

   -- Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will receive $8 
million to work with partners to expand wetlands and development of other 
watershed projects with at least 500 farmers in a 35-county area of priority 
watersheds. The wetlands will focus on improving water quality, reducing 
emissions and increasing wildlife habitat.

   -- Ohio State University and partners will receive $6.8 million to improve 
water-quality testing and work to reduce phosphorous concentrations in local 
bodies of water. The project will help the pilot watershed reach standards for 
the Great Lakes Water Quality levels for the first time.

   -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and local partners will work in 
California's Shasta Valley to improve conditions for threatened salmon within 
the Shasta River, a tributary to the Klamath River. The project will also help 
improve the resilience for farmers facing extreme drought conditions in the 
region. That project was awarded $8 million.

   -- Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will receive 
$5.3 million to increase afforestation and re-establish forestation goals by 
planting hardwoods and conifers in an area of about 16,400 acres in northern 

   -- Illinois Department of Agriculture will work to establish a Climate-Smart 
Agricultural Champions program to help reduce emissions and improve water 
quality in watersheds that are part of the Mississippi River basin. That 
project received $1.4 million in funding.

   A full list of the RCPP projects can be found at: 

   Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

   Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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