The RIPE (Rural Investment to Protect our Environment) Partnership is a pilot program that will reward farmers and ranchers for adopting climate-smart agriculture practices and convene stakeholders to generate guidance for a fully realized program that could reach all producers in the U.S. The pilot will launch in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Virginia with a budget of $80 million as part of the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. Lead applicant Virginia Tech will administer the project with participation from 14 additional partners.
Expanding this opportunity beyond these four states is possible! Learn about our farm bill strategy and how you can help make the RIPE proposal a reality for all producers here.
Pilot outcomes include:
- Piloting the RIPE concept that rewards farmers and ranchers at $100 per acre or animal unit for adopting climate-smart ag practices. The pilot will enroll around 4,400 to 4,800 producers in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Virginia.
- Refining program design for national program recommendations, including adjusting payments while maintaining the RIPE proposal’s principles.
- Integrating productivity increases as part of a climate-smart program to meet the goal of continuing U.S. producers’ agricultural leadership while advancing the adoption of climate-smart practices.
- Livestock program design recommendations based on research, convenings and a pilot that will test feed additives, feed management tool design and high-cost practices that provide significant environmental benefit.
- Integrating private market recommendations that support increasing the supply of climate-smart commodities for the private market through a public program.
Equity and Inclusion
The RIPE Partnership pilot program will ensure meaningful participation by underserved producers through a variety of mechanisms, which are tightly linked to RIPE’s longer-term goals around equity.
The program will:
- Ensure that 40% of producers enrolled in the pilot qualify as historically underserved, including producers who are socially disadvantaged, veterans, limited-resource, women, small and/or growing specialty crops. This is in line with the Justice40 Initiative.
- Allocate 5% of funds for socially disadvantaged producers and 5% for limited-resource producers in each partner state.
- Assess outreach plans and conservation district proposals in each pilot state to ensure that historically underserved producers live within the chosen districts, are aware of the project and are encouraged to apply. Equity producer groups will also be engaged nationally and at the state level to evaluate conservation district proposals and outreach plans.
- Guarantee that limited-resource producers, socially disadvantaged producers and producers from female-only operations automatically qualify for an “equity payment” valued at 25% of the baseline $100 per unit, or a total of $125 per unit and provide a minimum payment of $500 to operations with fewer than 5 acres.
- Equip producer groups, including equity-oriented groups, to host stakeholder roundtables in pilot states, soliciting producer feedback on program design and pilot participation.
Equity group partners include the National Black Growers Council and RIPE’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) Committee. RIPE is actively seeking to engage three additional equity partners in the project. Contact Danica MacAvoy to learn more.
Partners in the Four-State Pilot Project
- Arkansas: The Arkansas Department of Agriculture will implement the project with support from the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. Producer group partners are the Arkansas Rice Federation and the Agricultural Council of Arkansas.
- Minnesota: The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will implement the project. Producer group partners are the Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.
- North Dakota: The North Dakota Farmers Union will implement the project. Producer group partner is the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.
- Virginia: The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will implement the project with support from Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Thomas Jefferson and Colonial Conservation Districts, and Virginia State University, an 1890 land-grant university.
- The National Association of Conservation Districts will support consistency in training and outcomes across the implementing conservation districts in each pilot state.
National Research and Convening Partners
The Environmental Initiative, National Black Growers Council, Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation, Sustainable Food Lab, and Keystone Policy Center will manage work streams that include the following: refining payment terms to ensure they remain above costs; integrating productivity increases alongside climate-smart practices; supporting smaller producers and producers of color; refining livestock impact measurement tools; and prototyping a climate-smart certificate that can be sold in the private market.
Watch this space for more pilot details! To get the latest updates in your inbox, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
RIPE’s goal is to shape a USDA-funded conservation and climate program that rewards producers with equitable payments above costs.
RIPE is building a program that:
- Fully covers costs of implementation.
- De-risks economic losses during transition to new practices.
- Guards against the risk of regulations and costs due to future climate policies.
- Reflects the stacked ecosystem service values of soil, water, greenhouse gas and other public benefits that producers deliver.
- Rewards early actors and underserved producers with equitable payments.