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Virginia Tech offers $54 million to climate-friendly farmers

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Tech has reportedly received $80 million in federal funding that the school says will go toward jump-starting efforts in four states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms.

One of the biggest investments is being done in partnership with Rural Investments to Protect our Environment (RIPE), through which they will pay farmers and ranchers $100 per acre to adopt climate-friendly techniques.

“We are proud to lead this effort that gives agricultural producers incentives to enact climate-smart practices and the financial means to do so,” said Tom Thompson, a professor heading the research project. “This is a watershed program that helps the agricultural industry be a leader in addressing climate change.”

For now, the program will include Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota and North Dakota — but if the results are promising, it could be expanded across the United States.

“Farmers have always been the great stewards of our land, and American agriculture has long been a productivity powerhouse,” Thompson said. “This pilot program will help them continue to be so for generations to come.”

5,200 farms and ranches are expected to participate in the pilot study, with $54 million available in direct aid to farmers. Applications will open in the next few months through the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

The goal is to reduce overall carbon emissions in the United States by 8% once the program is scaled up nationally. Virginia Tech also said the techniques they’re promoting could cut greenhouse gases from individual farms by up to 55%.

Participants will get half of the cash-per-acre up front to help them implement the changes, as well as 25% when the changes are made and 25% after the study is completed. The school will also conduct “rigorous monitoring” over the three years of the study to track the benefits of the climate-friendly techniques.

The project will also allow producers to use “climate-smart” labels on their produce, designed to draw customers’ attention to the climate impact of their food — and push them to buy more sustainable options.

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