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ESF Partners with State Agencies to Promote Climate-Smart Farms and Forests 9/27/2022


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF)—the most distinguished College in the nation focused on the study of the environment—is partnering with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Department of Agriculture and Markets, and colleagues at Cornell University, Syracuse University and other organizations to help landowners and farmers implement more climate-smart solutions.

The project—promoting the use of agricultural (farming, ranching or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon—is being funded under the initiative NYS Connects: Climate Smart Farms and Forests Project, which was awarded a $60 million grant under the first round of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. NYS Connects is one of 70 selected nationally from more than 450 submitted project proposals. The initiative will help agriculture producers and forest landowners implement climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices in pursuit of the decarbonization targets of the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, as well as build connections between landowners and companies with a growing demand for commodities produced using climate-smart strategies.

"ESF has been researching sustainable forest management, bioenergy, and wood-based products for since its founding in 1911 and is excited to collaborate with our partner institutions on moving this critical work forward as climate change impacts every aspect of life," said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. "Working literally from the ground up with agriculture and forestry, this funding will open new avenues of research. This is an opportunity to dramatically change the way landowners, farmers, and businesses operate to make our systems in New York State more climate-friendly."

The NYS Connects: Climate Smart Farms and Forests Project will immediately fund landowners working to implement multiple climate-smart agriculture and forestry (CSAF) practices by building on current State programs. The project will identify and mitigate social and behavioral barriers to CSAF practice adoption, particularly among underserved and minority populations. ESF's role will primarily be focused on monitoring, quantifying, verifying, and reporting the practices are having the desired impact.

Other partners include the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Syracuse University, Michigan State University, Evidn, and Mercy Works. The DEC will announce specific dollar amounts for partners in the coming months.

"In New York State, private forests are removing climate-altering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a rate equal to the emissions from two million gasoline-powered vehicles, highlighting the importance of partnering with landowners to sustain our forests and fight climate change," said DEC Commissioner and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Basil Seggos.

"This USDA award is major, exciting news for New York, and will build on the tremendous work that has been ongoing at the state level to combat climate change. From the Climate Action Council to the Climate Resilient Farming Grant program, the Department is a critical part of the solution, helping our farmers to implement conservation measures in response to environmental challenges and secure our food supply," Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. "Together in partnership with DEC, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cornell Cooperative Extension, SUNY ESF, Syracuse University and many others, we are leading the way in innovative, best agricultural environmental practices that are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and helping farms build resiliency to the impacts of a changing climate."

New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires some of the most aggressive climate targets in the nation. The Climate Act provides policy certainty and ensures that this project will have an immediate impact and will accelerate the development of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices and ensure continuation for decades. This initiative also can lead to substantially larger investments to decarbonize multiple sectors of the economy, such as buildings, and energy sources, through the ability to advance the highest standards in measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification of how forestry and agriculture products are produced and used. In this way, it can unlock the agriculture and forestry industries to enable deeper decarbonization across the entire economy.