District of Columbia


USDA Climate Smart Commodities Program (2022)

PASSED May 25, 2023

We are thrilled to announce that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted nearly $5 million to a consortium led by Tennessee State University (TSU) for sustainable hemp fiber research. The collaborative initiative, in partnership with the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the Hemp Alliance of Tennessee, is one of 71 proposals selected as part of the second Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding pool.

In June, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable shared our support for this project and urged hemp businesses and organizations to help encourage USDA’s approval of the proposal. With the urging of dozens of endorsements from leading hemp firms and organizations across the country, it has been selected as one of five hemp projects to receive USDA climate-smart grant funding.

The project, “Climate-Smart Fiber Hemp: A Versatile Thread Connecting the Nation’s Underserved Farmers, Climate Change Mitigation and Novel Market Opportunities,” aims to expand the production of industrial hemp as a climate-smart commodity, evaluate its greenhouse gas benefits (GHG), and promote the value of market development to a cross-section of production agriculture, including small, medium, and underserved producers across the state of Tennessee. It will also support underserved producers (e.g. minority producers, women, veterans), as well as farmers from the nine most economically distressed counties in Tennessee, and the 30 counties at risk for becoming economically distressed. Significantly, it will also fund a critical effort to develop consensus-based technical standards and specifications for hemp fiber materials; with the development of a sustainability certification program that will be meaningful, truly addressing sustainability interests.

Read a summary of the TSU proposal here.

“We applaud the USDA for selecting such a worthy project that addresses two critical missions of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable: promoting agricultural sustainability through hemp and promoting justice and equity,” stated Roundtable General Counsel Jonathan Miller. “The Roundtable and its sister organization, the U.S. Hemp Authority, are particularly excited to work with the HBCU-led consortium to develop a sustainability certification program that will help ensure that hemp plays a critical role in environmental protection and climate change remediation.

The first funding pool for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities effort was announced in September, which awarded two projects a combined total of $21 million for hemp research and development. According to the USDA, all of the projects funded require support of small and underserved producers, however, the second funding pool was particularly focused on innovative projects that emphasize enrolling small and underserved producers and invest in measuring, monitoring, reporting and verifying the benefits of climate-smart practices at minority-serving institutions.

“We are proud to partner with Tennessee State University to realize the full potential for hemp in the state of Tennessee, with both this grant proposal and the feasibility study we announced earlier this year,” said Frederick Cawthon, President of the Hemp Alliance of Tennessee, Officer and Vice President for Minority Empowerment of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. “It is heartening that the USDA is making sure that the historically disadvantaged have a seat at the table and an opportunity to benefit from the industry’s potential, all while promoting climate-smart agricultural practices.”

See the full list of USDA Climate-Smart Projects here.

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