Managed grazing is one of the many ways farmers can implement climate-smart practices, and after a long absence, a key source of federal assistance has been reinstated.
At the end of the summer, the United States Department of Agriculture announced up to $12 million to be shared by groups providing technical assistance to farmers considering managed pasture.
Laura Paine, outreach coordinator for the Grassland 2.0 project based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said managed grazing relies primarily on pasture forage for livestock.
“It works because it lowers your costs because the animals go out and harvest their own food and spread their own manure,” Paine explained. “It’s very adaptable and you can use it as much or as little as your system fits.”
Experts have pointed out that it also protects water quality, improves soil health and provides good habitat for pollinators and wildlife. The deadline for applying for funds is September 22. Eligible groups include agricultural organizations, conservation agencies and tribal governments. Funding for the program was cut over ten years ago. Even though he was reinstated, the amount is far less than supporters have been asking for.
Paine stressed that the level of funding should serve as a reminder to anyone interested to apply as soon as possible. She noted that there will be a national competition for the funds and hopes the process will inspire innovation.
“As we pass from generation to generation, we always have to think about, you know, adding new approaches to reaching the public, and the farmer population has changed,” Paine pointed out.
She added that young producers are joining us who have not inherited a family operation. Paine, who is also a farmer, managed the Pasture Conservation Initiative in Wisconsin and knows firsthand the effectiveness of the program.
“Wisconsin has always had this great combination of state agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits, working together to provide this combination of technical assistance and education,” Paine said. .
The Department of Agriculture said project proposals for cooperative agreements should identify and remove barriers to obtaining grazing assistance, in order to reach more historically underserved producers. The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute of Wisconsin led a broad coalition to urge Congress to restore funding for the program.