Expanding Commodity Markets and Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge and Values into Climate Smart Agriculture

Posted by Heather Dawn Thompson, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations in the Climate Initiative

January 24, 2023

A person who holds land

USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations is excited about the Department’s new investments through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Products. We invest a total of 3.1 billion dollars in 141 projects. More than 20 tribes and tribal groups across the nation are collaborating on many of these projects.

USDA will fund partnerships to support the production and marketing of smart goods through pilot projects lasting one to five years.

I recently met with one of these partnerships led by the Iowa Tribes of Kansas and Nebraska to discuss their recently funded project “Iowa Tribal Center for Excellence in Regenerative Native Agriculture Innovation Pilot Program.”

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CERNA will test indigenous agricultural knowledge and techniques and share that knowledge with Native American producers in a multi-state region to demonstrate climate-smart practices, provide long-term soil and water health benefits, and market climate-smart commodities. expand The project partners plan to provide each producer with annual incentives and premium payments and one-time financial assistance payments for education and training. In addition, CERNA plans to purchase the project’s preferred climate-smart equipment, which will be “Refurbished” under premium contracts.

I admire how this project combines local values ​​with climate smart innovations. It is also an important example of how smart agriculture can be implemented by producers who are affected and challenged by climate change.

Kansas and Nebraska Iowa Tribal Chief Timothy Rhodd inspects fields planted in lead fields.

Kansas and Nebraska Iowa Tribal Chief Timothy Rhodd acknowledged many of these challenges during our virtual event on December 20th.

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“A few years ago, we leased almost all of our acres because of the challenges of conventional agriculture and commodity markets,” Rhodd said. “This is what has led us to make significant changes to our agricultural model. What would happen if we married indigenous ecological processes with Western science? Just think of the social impact we could create. This is what CERNA will be.”

CERNA is collaborating with the company Terramera and others to help measure the environmental benefits of the climate-smart products produced through the project.

“We are excited to begin quantifying the benefits that occur in soil, such as increased soil health and carbon, and building a set of best practices that show how best to manage these outcomes,” said Terramera CEO Karn Manhas.

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The partnership for Key-Smart Commodities is designed to generate additional income, strengthen agricultural systems and local markets and return profits to the pockets of our local producers, keeping them on the land regardless of the size of their farm or type of operation. I am happy to see that this project shows how to meet this challenge by incorporating traditional indigenous ecological knowledge and indigenous agricultural techniques with modern food production.

Read about other projects with tribes and tribal organizations. Also, check out our “By the Numbers (PDF, 1.3 MB)” and “Manufacturer Benefits (PDF, 1.3 MB)” infographics.

Category / Topic:
Climate Initiative


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