How does the Climate Smart Teams Grant (CARAT) work?

The application form is for pre-qualification in the CARAT Project (Project) conducted by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) and partners with funding from the program Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, an initiative of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Project will provide funding to identify and implement climate-smart practices that will benefit your farm operations. The participating farms will be selected through a three-step process: pre-qualification, development of climate-smart plans for all pre-qualified farms, and selection of implementation farms (nearly 70 farms over 5 years).

Approximately 150 dairy farms will be approved through the pre-qualification process to work with a technical service provider to develop climate-smart plans for their operations. Funds will be provided for a technical service provider (TSP) to help your farm identify climate smart practices strategies and will work with you to develop an implementation plan specifically fitting to your operation and your climate smart goals. Those implementation plans will be presented to the Project Review Committee (Committee) to be considered as one of the farms receiving funding toward implementation. Because of funding limitations, pre-qualification does not guarantee your farm will be approved for Project implementation funds. However, the Committee will work with all farmers in to explore other implementation funding sources that may be available outside of the Project. You will be notified of acceptance of implementation funds upon approval by the Committee. 

What are the funding levels per farm?

Once the farm is approved into the implementation stage, the following amounts will be used to award implementation funding. This does not include dollars awarded to cover the cost of the Climate-Smart Plan itself which is completed and used in the approval process prior to the implementation stage.

Will our farm be monitored by Penn State for data research?

Twelve farms will be asked to participate in Penn State’s study and designated as “pilot farms” on which monitoring equipment will be used to collect data directly to use in Climate Smart research associated with this project to help establish baselines and effectiveness of various practices in ghg reduction. If your farm is identified as one of these farms, you will be asked to participate in this direct research and receive an additional $5,000 stipend beyond the implementation funding in exchange for your participation in the direct research component of the Project. However, if your farm is identified as an ideal location for monitoring, you are not required to participate in this direct research. If you choose not to serve as a research monitoring farm, you will still receive the implementation funding but will not receive the research stipend. All farms selected to receive implementation funding will be required to provide feedback regarding the strategies they put in place and how those strategies affected their overall operations. That feedback will be used to contribute indirectly to Penn State’s data research.

How much is our cost share, or in other words, what portion of the project is the farmer responsible for?

Farms are not required to provide a cost share as part of the Project. However, the climate-smart strategies identified and chosen by the farm from the implementation plan may exceed the amount of funding provided through the grant provided through this Project. Upon acceptance into the Project, the farm will be provided with the commitment level allocated to their farm through the project. If the farmer decides to move forward in the implementation stage, any costs incurred beyond the amount allocated through the Project will be the responsibility of the individual farm operation to pay in full. If additional financial resources beyond those made available through the Project are necessary, the Committee will work with you to identify additional grants or private investment if available. Commitment levels will align with the chart above and will be based on total cow numbers.

How long does it take from pre-qualification application to implementation?

The timeframe from application to implementation will depend upon how much planning is needed, whether engineering and design are needed for the climate-smart practices selected for implementation, whether permits are required from federal, state or local authorities, ease of contractor selection, timing of construction schedules, whether funding sources outside the Project  are being pursued, and what requirements might exist related to those funding sources.

How long do I have to complete the approved practices?

All approved practices must be completed by the end of the contract that the farm establishes with the Center for Dairy Excellence (Center), which will be no later than June 30, 2028, based on the ending date of the Project itself. Practices on the model farms where monitoring of emissions reductions are being conducted by Penn State researchers will need to be completed earlier than this so that researchers can collect data for at least one year prior to the conclusion of the Project.

What is the definition of cow numbers that determines the size of farm designation?

Cow numbers is defined as the total number of milking and dry mature cows in the herd, not including any replacement animals that have not calved yet.

What is expected of my farm in terms of data collection and reporting if we are selected to be part of the Project?

All farms selected as part of the program for climate-smart planning will be expected to work with the Project team and the farm’s implementation team to provide farm operational data so that the greenhouse gas emissions reductions and carbon sequestration can be calculated by Penn State researchers and Project partners. With respect to the on-farm monitoring on the model farms that implement climate-smart practices, Penn State researchers will maintain and operate all the monitoring equipment and collect all the data.

How quickly can I expect to hear if my application has been approved?

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis approximately every month. You can expect to hear back within 45 days of submission of your application.

How long does the development of the climate-smart plan take and how quickly after that plan is presented to the Committee will I know if my farm is awarded implementation funding?

This will depend upon what the status of your farm conservation plans are when you apply to the Project and the workload of your TSP developing your plan. All farms will be provided with a CARAT Climate-Smart Plan. This will add time to the planning process. Once all plans are completed for a farm, they will be submitted to the Committee for consideration of implementation funds. Submissions will be reviewed monthly on a rolling basis. You can expect to hear back within 45 days of submission of your completed plan.

Will permitting costs be covered by the Project and will permitting applications be expedited?

Permitting costs can be included as part of the costs reimbursed through the Project. However, any permits must be directly associated with practices identified through the implementation plan presented to the Committee. Costs that are incurred prior to being accepted into the Project cannot be reimbursed. This Project exists separately from any state or local municipality approving permits and cannot influence the time it takes for any permits to be approved by that municipality.

Will a TSP be assigned to a farm or does the farm have the ability to select their TSP?

A farm can select the TSP they work with for the Project. A list of qualified TSPs can be provided by the Center. If the farm would like help in identifying a TSP to work with, the Center will assign a TSP to that farm. Any TSP a farm requests using is subject for approval by the Committee.  All TSPs will be required to follow the guidelines provided for completion of the implementation plan. TSPs certified by the NRCS are preferred.

Will the Best Management Practices (BMPs) we have already been practicing on our farm for years be counted/qualified?

Data on all BMPs you have already been practicing on your farm will be collected as part of the farm operational data used to calculate overall farm greenhouse gas emissions reductions and carbon sequestration. While carbon credits traded on the voluntary and regulatory carbon credit markets that currently exist generally require implementation of new practices to earn tradable credits, the Project will explore market-based opportunities for bringing value to climate-smart commodities for Pennsylvania dairy producers that involve both the new practices implemented and the existing practices on your farm. Therefore, implementation dollars awarded must be used on new practices that the farm implements.

What criteria will be used in selecting which farms submitting implementation plans for consideration will be among the 69 farms selected to receive funding for implementation?

Selection criteria will include the total greenhouse gas emissions reductions and carbon sequestration expected from your project, the cost effectiveness of the project, whether the Project’s priority climate-smart practices that reduce methane and/or nitrous oxide emissions are to be implemented, whether the project will help to meet Project’s farm size diversity goals, whether the farm is an underserved producer, demonstration of environmental stewardship and business stability, willingness to host monitoring, and willingness to serve as a demonstration farm.

Who gets credit for any Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions that result from the work completed on my farm because of this program?

The farm will choose ultimately how any credits resulting from this work enter the marketplace. Neither USDA, Penn State, nor any other Project partner will own the GHG reductions resulting from work completed on your farm because of this project. Whether some other entity may own those reductions or associated credits will depend on whether you have or develop any existing business relationships that may dictate this (such as with a cooperative, a product buyer, a retailer, a climate project developer, or broker, etc.).

Who is negotiating my credits in the voluntary market?  Can I do it myself and leave out the middleman?

You retain all rights to negotiate any carbon credits that result from implementation of climate-smart practices on your farm in any way you see fit. As part of the Project, Penn State economists will analyze market opportunities for climate-smart commodities. The Project partners will also hold farmer workshops to discuss recommendations and opportunities in the voluntary carbon and other existing or emerging markets to help you navigate this process. However, any negotiations and how those are handled are up to the farmer.

Is this a competitive grant or is it first come, first serve?

This is a first come, first served program for consideration within the requirements of the Project. Both pre-qualification and implementation decisions will be based on evaluation criteria to meet certain benchmarks for the Project, including the ability to work with a variety of farm categories to reflect the broad diversity of Pennsylvania dairy farms and ensure that monitoring and data can be collected on a select number of model farms.

What type of practices and work can be funded through this Project?

Practices to be funded may include any practice that suppresses methane emissions, nitrous oxide emissions, stores carbon, reduces fuel consumption, or reduces any input with an associated carbon footprint. The Project will focus on what goes in and what comes out of the cow. Priority is given to practices that reduce methane emissions through liquid manure storage/lagoon cover and flaring; feed management to reduce enteric methane emissions; and a variety of nutrient management and cropping practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from cropland.

The following table lists the main climate smart practices that may be funded by this Project, with priority given to those that involve what goes in and what comes out of a dairy cow:

How quickly will I receive the funds after I submit the reimbursement request?

Due to the nature of this project and the size of reimbursements that will be issued, the Center will need to receive the funds before issuing any reimbursements. Therefore, farmers should expect up to six weeks in between submitting reimbursement requests and receiving payment for those reimbursements.

Who is funding this Project and who will I receive my reimbursement check from?

All reimbursements for farms will come through the Center. Payments to farmers will be made from the Center as a subcontractor to the Project, which is funded by the USDA through a Climate Smart grant awarded to Penn State.

Can farms participate in two USDA Climate Smart initiatives?

Yes, farms can participate in two different projects that were awarded USDA Climate Smart Commodity Partnership funds. However, the two projects would have to fund different initiatives or aspects of the work being done. Double dipping or receiving money from both grants for the same exact thing is strictly prohibited.

What are the Reimbursement Requirements to receive any funding through this project?

  • Producers must have a signed contract with the Center prior to implementation of any work, in which the strategies being implemented will be outlined.
  • Producers must work with the TSP to complete an Inventory & Evaluation Report (I&E) to provide cost estimates for the approved practices prior moving forward with implementation.
  • Any work submitted to be reimbursed must be directly related to the practices outlined in the contract established between the Center and the farm, which will correspond with the implementation strategies identified in the Climate-Smart Plan presented to the Committee. Cost covered can include permitting, design, construction, excavation, product purchases, and contractor related but must directly correlate with the strategies outlined in the plan.
  • In most cases, expenses for implementation work will be reimbursed to the producer. TSPs will be paid directly for work associated with Climate-Smart Plan development. Exceptions can be made in unique situations when farmers want us to reimburse vendors directly.
  • Farmers agrees to complete surveys throughout period of the Project funding period.
  • Farmers must submit a W-9 to the Center prior to receiving any payments.
  • Invoices and expenses to be sent to:  Center for Dairy Excellence, Attn: Melissa Anderson, 1140 Mountain View Rd., Shermans Dale, PA 17090.
  • For questions on reimbursement, please contact Melissa Anderson at 717-636-0779 or email: