USDA is investing up to $12 million in partnerships that expand access to conservation technical assistance for livestock producers and increase the use of conservation practices on grazing lands through its Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative and $15 million for the Conservation Innovation Grants Classic program.
Through CIG, grantees work to address the nation's water quality, water quantity, air quality, soil health and wildlife habitat challenges, all while supporting agricultural production. This year’s funding priorities are climate-smart agriculture, addressing invasive species and conservation in urban agricultural systems.
NRCS is accepting proposals through its GLCI until September 22 and its CIG program until October 11.
“The challenges that farmers and ranchers face require innovative solutions to support their continued ability to produce the food and fiber we all depend on,” says Terry Cosby, chief of NRCS. “Invasive species are a continual problem, from weeds in cotton in the East to western bark beetles and other pests in the West. Climate change has led to more extreme weather and less available water for agriculture.”
Cosby adds, “At the same time, we are seeing opportunities for growth. Urban farming has increased, along with an interest in local foods and resilient food systems. We’re eager to help our nation’s farmers and ranchers address these challenges and opportunities, and science and innovation will help get us there.”
For the fiscal 2022 award process, at least 10% of the total funds available are set aside for proposals that entirely benefit historically underserved producers. This HU set-aside will ensure that equity is incorporated in the planning and delivery of CIG projects to align with NRCS’s Justice 40 goals. HU applicants can also waive the non-Federal match requirements.
For more information and to apply, visit grants.gov.
Grazing lands support
USDA is reviving and revitalizing GLCI to leverage partner capacity, expertise, and technical assistance to expand the footprint of well-managed grazing systems across the country. While some states have been able to use their annual funds to support similar agreements, this new structure and additional funding provides for a more strategic and comprehensive approach to support grazing systems, reaches new and historically underserved producers, and addresses climate change.
Common grazing land conservation practices include brush management, pasture and hay planting, fencing, prescribed grazing and prescribed burning, among others.
“Privately owned grazing lands cover nearly 30% of the national landscape, which means we have a tremendous opportunity to address climate change and conserve natural resources through voluntary, private lands conservation,” says Cosby. “NRCS enlists a wide variety of conservation practices to help livestock producers. These partnerships will also help us expand the footprint of conservation on grazing lands and could help better reach historically underserved producers.”
Project proposals for GLCI Cooperative Agreements will identify and address barriers to accessing grazing assistance for producers. These partnerships are encouraged to include outreach and support for reaching historically underserved producers. Projects must address one or more of the following priorities:
- Address local natural resource concerns.
- Use climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices and principles.
- Encourage existing and new partnerships through emphasizing equity in advancing the resource needs of underserved communities.
- Identify and implement strategies to quantify, monitor, report on and verify conservation benefits associated with grazing management systems.
Through GLCI, NRCS will leverage the partnerships to increase availability of technical assistance for farmers and ranchers engaged in grazing activities and act as navigators for grazers seeking additional resources. The opportunity encourages knowledge and expertise in working with historically underserved producers, with a desired outcome of strong participation by historically underserved producers in new and existing grazing coalitions. GLCI intends to expand and establish new peer-to-peer networks for grazers and direct financial support for grazing mentors working with new, beginning, or transitioning grazers.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says it is pleased to see this investment in sustainable grazing, as the organization has long advocated for increased funding for the program.
“GLCI provides local and regional resources for farmers and ranchers, – both established and beginning, who are interested in understanding and utilizing grazing management practices. These resources include technical support, education, rancher-to-rancher learning, and funding for partnerships between NRCS and grazing-focused organizations. We look forward to seeing on the ground successes from this program and will continue to advocate for additional funding to build upon those successes,” says Jesse Womack, NSAC conservation policy specialist.
For more information and to apply, visit the funding opportunity on grants.gov. Applications are being accepted now through Sept. 2, 2022.