( – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $8 million in four partnerships to support and expand measurement and monitoring of carbon in soil on working agricultural lands and to assess how climate-smart practices are affecting carbon sequestration. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with Iowa State University, Michigan State University, American Climate Partners and University of Texas at El Paso on regional projects on soil organic carbon stock monitoring.

The selected partners will support implementation of a new Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activity (CEMA) offered by NRCS, which provides financial assistance to producers for measuring soil organic carbon stocks before and after the implementation of a conservation practice or conservation plan. A qualified individual will use a hydraulic probe or excavation method to sample soil to one meter depth or restrictive layer. The soil will then be tested for organic carbon and bulk density to provide organic carbon stock levels to farmers and ranchers. These partners will play a critical role in training individuals on the sampling methodology and informing producers about the CEMA opportunity.

“Healthy soils are a powerful tool when it comes to sequestering carbon. These partners will enhance our measurement tools and eventually become part of our program delivery to advance quantification of the effects that climate-smart agricultural practices have on carbon sequestration,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “Soil health management practices and activities are a tremendous part of our strategy when it comes to climate-smart agriculture and forestry.”

NRCS is funding four regional agreements:

Iowa State University of Science and Technology – Know Your Carbon Landscape: Data for Consistent Monitoring of Soil Carbon: This $1.99 million four-year project in NRCS’ Central Region will be conducted by an eclectic team of university educators, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers and stakeholders who will design materials and deliver training on NRCS’s Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) Stock Measurement standards and the benefits of monitoring SOC stocks using a three-prong approach: website, printed materials and field demonstration sites.

Michigan State University – Soil Carbon IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in highly diverse cropping systems and people in the Northeast U.S.: The objective of this $1.95 million four-year project in NRCS’ Northeast Region is to develop comprehensive training in SOC evaluation for diverse groups of farmers, agronomists and agribusiness professionals. The training will include field-days, bulletins, videos, a podcast and a film documentary.

American Climate Partners – Southeast Region Deep Soil Carbon Stock Partnership and Monitoring Project: This $2 million four-year project in NRCS’ Southeast Region will support and increase soil carbon stock monitoring through a public-private partnership between American Climate Partners, land-grant universities and their extension services, Carter Farms, LLC in Orange County Virginia and other organizations providing technical assistance to historically underserved communities. The goal of the project is to train producers on how to assess and monitor the effects of climate-smart practices on soil carbon sequestration and on the benefits of these practices.

University of Texas at El Paso – Dynamic Carbon SMART (Soil Monitoring, Assessment, Research, and Training) Project: This $2 million, four-year project in NRCS’ Western Region will train producers to quantify soil carbon stocks and assess the efficacy of climate-smart conservation practices. The project will facilitate regional capacity-building by recruiting and training local technical service providers and qualified individuals who can effectively recruit underserved producers to participate in NRCS financial and technical assistance for Soil Organic Carbon Stock Monitoring.

All the selected projects include a strategy to reach equity in program delivery in underserved communities by encouraging diverse producers to participate in soil carbon monitoring and other NRCS conservation activities. Project partners will deliver training on soil sampling for soil organic carbon and bulk density, data collection, management and processing methods, and conduct outreach to producers to encourage use of NRCS’ soil carbon monitoring activity.