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Missouri farmers will get federal help to cope with and mitigate climate change

Cover crops on a farm in Illinois. More widespread use of the crops could help farmers mitigate climate change and help their bottom line.
Dana Cronin
/
Harvest Public Media
Cover crops on a farm in Illinois. More widespread use of the crops could help farmers mitigate climate change and help their bottom line.

Missouri farmers will benefit from $25 million in federal money designed to help them cope with and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the money to the University of Missouri to help farmers statewide. It was one of 70 grants across the country the USDA announced last week.

Missouri’s program will focus on four efforts. The first is increasing the number of acres planted with cover crops, which keep soil healthy and prevent erosion when cash crops aren’t on the land.

“Right now we have about a million acres of cover crops, which is like 10% of our cropland. This should help us boost that number considerably,” said Rob Myers, director of the university’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture.

Myers said the projects won’t just be for large farms — even a one-acre operation could be eligible for help.

“It might be, let’s say, a vegetable farmer that wants to make more use of cover crops and pollinators and buffer strips on their farms to help put more carbon in the soil and more overall resiliency,” Myers said.

Other projects for the five years of funding include implementing more precise use of fertilizers and promoting forest land for raising cattle, as well as using more native grasses for grazing.

Lincoln University in Jefferson City will receive $5 million to help commercialize hemp and market climate-smart products made from it. Growing hemp increases carbon sequestration.

“During the life of these projects, we’re hopeful of recording 50 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent reductions and greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration benefits,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in announcing the grants. “That’s equivalent to about 10 million cars being taken off the road.”

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Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. His duties also include covering central and southern Missouri for Harvest Public Media. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.