COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri farmers will look to become the future of the industry, thanks to the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR).

MU received a $25 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help farmers adopt climate-smart practices. It's the largest federal research, education, and extension grant ever awarded to MU.

Robert Myers, an adjunct associate professor at CAFNR and director of the MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture, will lead the five-year project.

"We had to write a detailed proposal with a five-year plan and compete with other projects from across the country," Myers said. "There were over 1,000 projects submitted to this program and 70 were announced today. Just a few of them went to universities and we were pleased to be one of the universities selected to have a project."

The project will affect up to 500,000 acres of farmland in Missouri as it helps farmers aim to improve the resiliency of their crops, livestock and farm operations when facing extreme weather, such as droughts and excessive rainfall.

"The project over five years will help farmers to adapt what's called climate-smart practices, so these are things that will help farmers deal with dry weather or really wet weather. We'll also be helping them create new market opportunities for crops and livestock," Myers said. "These will be available to farmers across Missouri, so there'll be both incentive payments for farmers and the support in terms of education and training programs for farmers and farm advisors."

One of the main goals of the grant is to get more carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil, with an expected reduction of 1 million metric tons in carbon dioxide equivalents – comparable to offsetting the emissions of more than 200,000 cars in Missouri.

"In terms of the direct impact of carbon in the atmosphere, doing practices like cover crops or agroforestry help takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and put it into the soil," Myers said. "The more carbon we have in the soil, where we call soil organic matter, the more resilient those soils are to dry weather or wet weather."

The project will be a collaborative partnership among the MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture, MU Extension, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Lincoln University, the Missouri Corn Growers Association, the Missouri Soybean Association, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, state agencies, agribusiness nonprofit groups in Missouri and 14 faculty in CAFNR.

The project will not begin until this upcoming winter as MU is awaiting for final details from the USDA to start it.

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