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‘Horizon II’ secures US$80M in USDA funding

‘Horizon II’ secures US$80M in USDA funding
Horizon II project partners (photo courtesy RAE).

In the United States (US), a partnership of 13 public and private entities led by Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE) has finalized a US$80 million grant from the federal government’s first pool of funds from the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. The funding will be used in a five-year pilot project in Iowa (IA) and Missouri (MO) called ‘Horizon II’ to demonstrate a “Climate-Smart Future for Corn, Soybean, Livestock, and Renewable Natural Gas Production.”

The Horizon II project will enhance climate-smart markets, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and improve carbon sequestration in the production of corn, soybean, pork, and beef commodities.

Horizon II will also create new opportunities for small and underserved producers while benefiting soil health, clean water, flood control, and habitats for native wildlife.

Benefits from renewable energy production

The grant award is a major step toward advancing RAE’s core mission to develop a market-based solution that puts an economic value on restored native grasses, prairie plants, and winter-hardy cover crops by using sustainably harvested biomass to create renewable natural gas (RNG).

Since founding RAE, our overarching goal has been to provide farmers an alternative way to use land, especially highly erodible acres, in ways that will benefit the environment, wildlife, and their own livelihood,” “This funding will propel Horizon II forward more rapidly than otherwise would have been possible. We will show how farmers and landowners can do well for themselves while also providing ecological services and wildlife benefits, said Rudi Roeslein, Founder and CEO of RAE.

Pilot Program in Iowa and Missouri

A pilot will be developed, deployed, and verified in Iowa (IA) and Missouri (MO), where much of the nation’s corn, soybeans, and pork are produced.

Horizon II seeks to incentivize improved management of nitrogen fertilizer and other inputs on agricultural land, which is critical to the success of climate-smart practices.

Farmers, livestock producers, and landowners will be compensated for GHG reductions and carbon sequestration in the soil through an outcomes-based carbon credit program.

Producing winter-hardy cover crops and grassland restoration will be further incentivized through a novel, market-based program that supports RNG production through the anaerobic digestion (AD) of herbaceous biomass combined with manure.

The RNG can be fed into the national grid and become part of the sustainable new value chain.

Program partners will collaborate with farmers, livestock producers, landowners, and other stakeholders, including early adopters of practices and historically underserved producers, to ensure equitable access to the opportunities offered by the low-carbon agriculture of the future.

Horizon II Partner Organizations

Partner organizations involved in the RAE Horizon II project are Conservation Districts of Iowa, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa State University, Missouri Prairie Foundation, Sievers Family Farms, Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, Smithfield Foods, The Nature Conservancy, University of Missouri, Verdesian, University of California-Davis, and Veterans in Agriculture.

Iowa State University has been working with Roeslein Alternative Energy and many additional partners for nearly a decade, laying the foundation for a climate-smart commodity supply chain based on the anaerobic digestion of prairie grasses and winter hardy crops along with manure. I’m excited and thankful for this tremendous investment by USDA toward commercializing our research and development, with the goal of closing system loops to return more value from agriculture to people and the land, said Lisa Schulte-Moore, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Co-Director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University.

Once fully developed, deployed, and verified, the program can be extended and tailored to other agricultural commodities (i.e., dairy, poultry) and regions of the country.

While focused on GHG reduction and soil carbon storage, these climate-smart agricultural systems will add further value in terms of soil health, clean water, flood control, and habitat for native wildlife.

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