NRCS announces $50 million to expand access to conservation assistance
The 118 partnerships spread across the country will broaden access to conservation assistance to farmers who are new to farming, low income, socially disadvantaged or military veterans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a $50 million investment to expand access to conservation assistance for historically underserved producers.
Administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements will fund two-year projects to expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are new to farming, low income, socially disadvantaged or military veterans.
“We are committed to equal opportunity for those we serve, and we are taking bold, historic action to advance equity and root out generations of systemic racism,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These partnerships are another example of how we are helping ensure historically underserved producers can more fully access and participate in our programs and services."
The 118 partnerships are part of USDA’s broader efforts to address inequity in program delivery. USDA’s Risk Management Agency also announced its plans to invest $2 million in risk management education for historically underserved and small-scale producers.
"As we’ve said before: equity will be a vital part of our climate change work, as America’s farmers and rural communities are on the frontlines of climate change," said Vilsack. "Our work with producers and partners will invest in climate smart solutions that improve profitability and resilience, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities.”
The investment spread across the U.S. encourages new partnerships and the development of state and community conservation leadership for historically underserved producers, according to the USDA. Projects carried out through the partnerships will focus on these conservation priorities: improving soil health and water quality; providing habitat for at-risk wildlife; improving natural resources and productivity on agricultural lands; and building and strengthening local and regional food systems and markets.
Among the partnerships are the Federation of Southern Cooperatives with the Land Assistance Fund and McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development, which expands the Regional Agro Forestry Center to include climate smart agriculture, participation in conservation easements, heirs property consultations, forest management plans and certifications and youth employment placement. Additionally, a Regional Community Forest Justice Initiative will provide limited-resource forest landowners with conservation education, technical assistance and a climate smart vision for their land.
The McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) will help historically underserved producers implement natural resources conservation and climate smart agricultural practices. According to the USDA, SEED will work with producers to strengthen marketing skills, access new markets and produce and sell cooperatively. SEED will also engage historically underserved youth in 24 climate-impacted and economically distressed counties in Georgia through outreach and education, providing access to NRCS technical assistance, certifications and youth internships.