WASHINGTON — The North American Millers’ Association on Nov. 1 submitted comments to the US Department of Agriculture in response to the agency’s request for suggestions on how government might promote and structure an envisioned Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) Partnership Program.

Jane DeMarchi, president of NAMA, in the association’s response to the USDA’s request for comments, stressed the need for greater transparency in the USDA’s CSAF initiative and process.

“It would be helpful to both millers and producers to hear more from USDA about the agency’s intentions for a climate-smart future for US agriculture,” Ms.  DeMarchi said. “Our industry would appreciate more interaction with USDA, such as listening sessions or discussions of concepts that could then help us better understand and provide input into USDA’s vision with regard to climate-smart policies.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Sept. 29 requested the comments from farm, agribusiness and other organizations and stakeholders.

“Through extreme weather, drought and fire, our agriculture producers are on the frontlines of climate change,” Mr. Vilsack said. “The new Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative will support pilots that create new market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices and position US farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners as leaders in addressing climate change.”

In addition to emphasizing the need for greater transparency in the process, NAMA made several other key points in its comments.

NAMA said standardization of a CSAF program through the involvement of the USDA would be integral to the success of low-carbon commodities and carbon market credits because it would improve integrity within the marketplace and address the current uncertainty facing both private companies and farmers. 

The association said the USDA should develop a set of standards for any voluntary carbon markets so that all those involved are meeting the same objectives and know what benefits will accrue to which practices. 

“Millers support activities that test and evaluate standardized protocols that define eligible climate-smart agriculture practices, quantification methodologies, and verification practices, with an emphasis on minimizing transaction costs and operating at scale, which is imperative for our members,” NAMA said.

NAMA stressed future USDA climate-smart programs should be structured in a way that many different organizations, grower groups, research institutions, and individual farmers would have the ability to apply.

“Millers believe USDA should not establish a single payment per ton of greenhouse gas generated through partnership projects as part of the project payment structure,” NAMA said. “Instead, USDA should evaluate a range of incentive options so that producers are not inherently disincentivized from growing small grains. As grain processors, we are concerned that certain practices, if adopted, may inadvertently negatively impact the production and functionality of grain.” 

NAMA added it would be helpful for producers and processors to have closer partnerships with the USDA to achieve a better understanding of how climate-smart practices would affect their commodities, including through USDA research programs.