Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau launched a $185 million climate-focused program today, called the Agriculture Climate Solutions program.

Aimed at building “climate resiliency” within the agriculture sector, the ACS program is intended to be led by farmers and farm groups tasked with developing and deploying climate solutions tailored for each region, the government says.

To be eligible for the ACS program, applicants must form a large network of partnerships within a province, including with agricultural non-profits, Indigenous organizations, and environmental groups.

The program will proceed in two phases. The first phase, which will launch April 1st, aims to support the development of proposals focused on regional collaboration hubs, also known as Living Labs, by offering grants of up to $100,000.

Already in progress, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Living Labs network in Manitoba was granted $6 million for projects back in December. There are similar networks already underway in Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island. The Living Labs model has been endorsed by the G20 as a model of innovation and collaborative research, the government says.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announcing an expansion of the federal Living Labs initiative on March 18, 2021.

The aim is for every province in Canada to have at least one collaboration hub. Each hub will centre on farms, where farmers and researchers can co-develop best practices, which may include cover crops, intercropping, conversion of marginal land to permanent cover, shelterbelts, nutrient management, and inclusion of pulses in rotation.

Applicants will need to demonstrate their ability to engage with researchers and develop plans for knowledge transfer and adoption among their peers.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says it will host regional information sessions over the coming weeks on this initiative.

The program’s second phase will open as early as Fall 2021. At this stage, applicant groups can submit their applications for funding support of up to $10 million per project, says AAFC.

The ACS program is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and towards net-zero emissions by 2050. It also complements Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund which will provide $631 million over the next 10 years to support projects to “restore, enhance and conserve wetlands, peatlands, grasslands and forests to store and capture carbon.”

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