By MATTHEW WEAVER
The USDA has announced nine new projects to mitigate greenhouse gases.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved about $7.4 million to fund projects in 24 states through USDA Conservation Innovation Grants.
* $1.226 million to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state to adapt and implement forest carbon sequestering and develop protocols to overcome legal and technical barriers to carbon credit markets.
* $550,000 to Applied Ecological Service, Inc., to provide a roadmap for monetizing carbon credits from such soil carbon-enhancing conservation practices as no-till production and crop rotation across the Palouse region in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
* $1.102 million to the Dairy Science Institute, Inc., to work with dairy farmers in 12 states -- including California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington -- to develop a support tool to help enhance conservation efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
* $1.089 million to the Environmental Defense Fund to develop and implement a new initiative to demonstrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in rice production in California and Arkansas. Rice production uses an underwater anaerobic process, said Lillian Woods, team leader and national technology support coordinator for the conservation service in Washington, D.C.
The concern is that methane is released during production. The project will begin in California and move into other rice-producing areas, she said.
Sara Magenheimer, state public affairs officer for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland, Ore., said the grant program provides funding directly to eligible producers in a selected project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP.
"The goal of these programs is to help folks think about implementing the more cutting-edge technologies or new practices that will in the long run help them to utilize some of those carbon credit options," she said.
Carbon credits would be at different stages for each project, Magenheimer said.
Woods said it's the first time the USDA has looked at greenhouse gas protocols instead of primarily demonstrating specific projects. The grants are an opportunity for the department to develop a national protocol, so that carbon sequestration would be consistent throughout the U.S.
According to the USDA, it received 43 grant proposals from 28 states. Grant recipients are required to provide matching funds in cash and in-kind services.