International Fresh Produce Association’s BB #:378962 climate-smart production pilot is ready to start as soon as produce companies sign up.
Max Teplitski, chief science officer of IFPA said grower recruitment started after its September 5 webinar on the program.
“The goal is to bring a hundred growers into the project to trial climate-smart practices,” he said.
Last year, IFPA submitted a proposal to USDA and received a $15 million grant for a pilot project, called “A Vibrant Future,” which IFPA says “will incentivize growers of specialty crops to adopt climate-smart production in order to establish a consumer-driven, climate-smart market for fruits and vegetables grown using climate-smart practices.”
IFPA’s project partners are Measure to Improve, University of Florida, Alcorn State University and Frehner-Jens consulting.
Teplitski said the pilot isn’t so much a climate change project as it is a business pilot.
USDA is asking produce company participants to assess carbon sequester, but Teplitski said IFPA hopes to learn not only what can be accomplished on carbon, but how that success can be marketed to consumers and buyers.
He said IFPA hopes to have 100 growers participate, but it really needs 20 to sign up by the end of the year to get it going.
“We’re asking growers to only commit acreage that makes sense for them, like smaller, safer acreage,” Teplitski said.
Growers will be asked to commit to the implementation of a climate-smart practice, such as nutrient management, residue and tillage management, alley cropping, short season cover crops combined with conservation tillage, water management or soil amendments.
Participating growers receive some grant money and access to technology advisors and data collection from the University of Florida.
Teplitski said IFPA is asking for a four-year commitment, and it plans to have two cohort groups, that will be in the program that will overlap over five years.
He said he believes that climate change issues are becoming less politically polarizing, as USDA has various pilots and programs across a wide range of red and blue states and agricultural commodities.
He said there has long been a business case for produce companies to improve their sustainability, and this is another way, that could even become a marketable message.