Insight – USDA launches the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative

4 May 2022

On 7 February 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative.

The US$1 billion program will finance pilot projects that assist producers and landowners to:

  • implement climate-smart production practices, activities, and systems
  • measure/quantify, monitor and verify carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits
  • develop markets and promote the resulting climate-smart commodities.

Sustainability initiatives in agriculture

The announcement follows the release of the USDA’s Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience in October 2021 and is part of an increased focus on sustainability initiatives.

US Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, had raised the potential for a new climate-smart label to encourage low-carbon food production systems and support future trade.

USDA invited public comments to inform the development of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. It sought feedback on “green labelling” as a potential project goal. US agriculture stakeholders expressed mixed views.

The new program does not list a new label among its goals. It notes funded pilot projects will aim to:

  • test and evaluate efficient traceability through supply chains from production to consumer
  • understand the marketability advantages for a variety of farm types
  • increase the competitiveness of US producers domestically and internationally.

Australia’s other key trading partners, including Japan, Thailand and the European Union, have also introduced sustainability-focused initiatives. These programs range from voluntary and incentive-based initiatives through to strict regulatory arrangements.

Implications for Australian exporters

The US is a key market and competitor for Australian agricultural exporters. It is also a leader in international forums such as the World Trade Organization. Programs implemented in the US have the potential to impact:

  • Australian exports to the US
  • competition with Australian products in other markets
  • the policy decisions of other countries.

Australian agricultural exporters should monitor the implementation of the Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, including the longer-term outcomes from the pilot projects and the follow-up actions from the USDA.

Resources

The Australian Government’s network of Agriculture Counsellors provided information for this article. More information about the Agriculture Counsellor network, including contact details, is available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

Additional information about the US market is available on the Austrade website.

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