Blue Diamond Growers, an almond-growing cooperative consisting of 3,000 grower-owners, recently initiated its USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Grant Program. The initiative signifies a significant stride toward implementing climate-smart practices in almond orchards across the United States.
The first phase of the Blue Diamond USDA Climate-Smart Grant Program grants almond growers free seeds and financial incentives to introduce cover crops and conservation cover on their lands. These practices are expected to sequester carbon, enrich the orchard biodiversity, and augment soil health. The program will operate in collaboration with civil society technical partners, Pollinator Partnership and Project Apis m.
Dan Sonke, Senior Director of Sustainability at Blue Diamond Growers, expressed his optimism for the project. He highlighted that this unique opportunity circumvents traditional federal, state, and local resources usually available to growers. He noted, “This project provides resources to accelerate our grower-owners’ advances in soil health, biodiversity, and climate-smart agriculture.”
Additionally, the initiative aims to establish almond-specific methods to quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of implementing climate-smart practices. It will also investigate market-based strategies to reward growers for their conservation efforts.
The USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Grant Program further builds on Blue Diamond’s existing Orchard Stewardship Incentive Program (OSIP). Currently, over 50% of Blue Diamond’s total acreage participates in OSIP, making it the world’s largest almond acreage involved in a sustainability program. Moreover, over 15% of Blue Diamond’s acreage has acquired Bee Friendly Farming (B.F.F.) certification.
Sonke continued by emphasizing the advantages of the program to growers, food companies, and retailers. He argued that these stakeholders could collaborate with Blue Diamond to back climate-smart practices that improve the climate, soil health, and orchard biodiversity. These partnerships will allow them to source almonds with quantifiable GHG reductions, assisting them in achieving their climate and sustainability goals.
Blue Diamond Growers is currently planning and communicating with growers, aiming to kick off the grant-related practices across California in October, after this year’s harvest.