USDA’s $25 million grant for ‘climate-smart’ farming is MU’s largest

(The Center Square) – The University of Missouri will receive a five-year, $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers adapt to climate change.

The funding is the largest federal research, education and extension grant ever awarded to the university. The project begins in January and will focus on helping Missouri farmers adopt “climate-smart practices that will ultimately help farmers improve the resiliency of their crops and livestock in the midst of growing threats from climate change,” according to a university news release.

The grant will fund partnerships with the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture, MU Extension, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Lincoln University, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, state agencies, agribusiness non-profit groups and 14 faculty in MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR).

“Growing up on a farm, I’ve seen firsthand challenges that can arise from extreme weather, whether it’s flooding from excessive rain or drought from not enough rain,” Rob Myers, an adjunct professor in the CAFNR who will lead the project, said in a statement. “Climate change ultimately impacts our food production and food prices, so our goal is to help farmers with different practices that will make their farms more resilient.”

MU expects up to 3,000 Missouri farmers to be involved in the project. The program includes financial incentives for farmers using climate-smart practices. An estimated 500,000 acres of Missouri farmland will be involved in strategies to protect and improve soil. Livestock farmers will be engaged in enhanced grazing and pasture management to help reduce the price of hay during droughts and improve the health of cattle.

“This grant demonstrates the confidence the nation has in MU scientists who continually seek answers on some of society’s toughest issues,” MU President Mun Choi said in a statement. “We expect that the discoveries made during this transformational project will be expanded to address similar challenges throughout the nation and world.”

The grant will fund development of new markets for climate-smart practices, including grass-fed beef and bioenergy. Another goal of the project is to remove one million metric tons in carbon dioxide equivalents, an amount equal to offsetting the emissions of more than 200,000 cars.

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