Feb 14, 2024
USDA launches Climate Corps training program

The USDA has launched the Working Lands Climate Corps initiative to train the next generation of conservation and climate leaders.

As part of the American Climate Corps initiative, the Working Lands Climate Corps will provide technical training and career pathway opportunities for young people, helping them deliver economic benefits through climate-smart agriculture solutions for farmers and ranchers. The Working Lands Climate Corps, in its first cohort, will aim to create service opportunities for more than 100 young people.

Photo courtesy of the USDA.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working in partnership with AmeriCorps, The Corps Network and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) in this effort. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small made the announcement at the National Association of Conservation Districts annual meeting in San Diego. More than 50,000 people have expressed interest in joining the American Climate Corps — and over the past several weeks, 2,200 people have participated in American Climate Corps listening sessions.

“As part of President Biden’s historic American Climate Corps initiative, USDA’s new Working Lands Climate Corps will train a new generation of Americans to help tackle climate change in rural communities across the country,” Torres Small said in a news release.

“From the Heartland to the coasts, President Biden’s American Climate Corps is mobilizing the next generation of Americans to tackle the climate crisis while putting young people on pathways to good-paying careers,” Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor, said in the release. “USDA’s Working Lands Climate Corps demonstrates how the President’s historic initiative is on the frontlines of addressing some of the most urgent challenges facing our agricultural communities, ensuring that farmers and ranchers continue to play a central and growing role in developing innovative climate solutions.”

From the Dust Bowl to climate change

The Civilian Conservation Corps traces its roots to the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl, Michael D. Smith, CEO of AmeriCorps said in the news release.

“Today, farmers are facing new a threat — climate change and droughts,” Smith said in the release. “With equity at its core, President Biden’s American Climate Corps is addressing this new crisis by training a new generation for good-paying jobs in climate resilience and clean energy.”

The new American Climate Corps program will mobilize Americans across the country to restore soil health, promote sustainable farming practices, and tackle the disproportionate impacts that climate change has on the farming industry and our food, Smith said in the release.

“Managing and protecting our natural resources is a shared responsibility. The work NRCS does in collaboration with partners to improve the resilience of private lands is increasingly important as we see the mounting effects of climate change,” Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president and CEO of The Corps Network, said in the release. “Engaging young adults in this work through a Corps model offers a way to expand the reach of NRCS, train future workers in climate-smart agriculture practices, and develop a new generation of climate and community leaders.”

“Conservation Districts have a long history of partnership with the USDA and original Civilian Conservation Corps that dates back to the Dust Bowl era,” NACD Director Kim LaFleur said in the release.

The Working Lands Climate Corps is part of the American Climate Corps, a workforce training and service initiative that is working to ensure more young people have access to the skills-based training needed for good paying careers in the clean energy and climate resilience economy.

Webinars to provide more information

The Corps Network, National Association of Conservation Districts, AmeriCorps and USDA are presenting webinars at 2 p.m. Feb. 15 and 11 a.m. Eastern Feb. 20 to provide additional information for organizations interested in applying. To learn more, visit www.corpsnetwork.org/WLCC.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Eastern on March 8.

The National Association of Conservation Districts will be a core partner in supporting the program, organizing and structuring training for the members of the Working Lands Climate Corps. This will include mentorship opportunities, on-the-job training, and job experience needed to prepare Working Lands Climate Corps members for careers in climate-smart agriculture and conservation.

The Corps Network is also announcing an initial investment for the Working Lands Climate Corps from the Platform for Agriculture and Climate Transformation and will continue to leverage additional and critical philanthropic funds.

Members will receive technical skills training, education awards and career pathway opportunities. They will conduct outreach and education around the availability of climate-smart agriculture assistance and support conservation technical assistance and resilient planning activities for working farms and ranches.

Through the first cohort of members, more than 100 young people will serve with state and local host organizations across the country, receiving on-the ground experience and training with partners and organizations who conduct programming to support the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices and systems.

Eligible host organizations, who can apply through the request for proposal, may include organizations that operate at the state and local level in cooperation with NRCS to provide conservation assistance and other climate-smart agriculture programs, including outreach and education to reach new farmers and ranchers across the country.

USDA is one of the seven agencies that signed a memorandum of understanding to shape the American Climate Corps, which will serve as a blueprint for the multiagency program. The memorandum of understanding lays out the mission, goals, priorities, and next steps for implementing the American Climate Corps.



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