USDA investing $50 million for conservation assistance; Arkansas partners on 13 projects

by George Jared ([email protected]) 804 views 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $50 million in 118 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. Several groups in Arkansas will benefit.

The Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 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. Projects will support USDA’s broader effort to address climate change and equitable access to programs.

“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 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. 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. 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 program encourages new partnerships and the development of state and community conservation leadership for historically underserved producers, with projects focusing on one or more of the following key 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.

“The new Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements help historically underserved farmers with conservation and climate smart agriculture,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist in Arkansas. “We are committed to the values of equity and inclusion. These cooperative agreements are another step in the right direction expanding access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry.”

Among the Arkansas partnerships are:

American Forest Foundation – (states included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia). Project Title – Growing the SFLR Network to Reach More Historically Underserved Landowners and Provide Climate Smart Solutions

Arkansas Land & Community Development Corp. – (states included Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee). Project Title – Arkansas Land and Community Development Corporation (ALCDC) Conservation Justice Equity and Equality Collaboration Project

The Central Arkansas Sphinx Foundation. Project Title – Assist and mobilize socially disadvantages customers/partnerships to address food insecurity utilizing urban/small-scale agriculture

James Bunch (states included – Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina). Project Title – Strengthen Historically Underserved Communities Through Healthy Food Production systems Utilizing the Seasonal High Tunnel System

The KKAC Organization – (states included Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina). Project Title – Equity in Conservation Programs for Socially Disadvantaged Producers through Outreach

Nolo Martinez (nationwide). Project Title – Champions in Conservation and Climate-Smart Agriculture (CCCSA) “Campeones en conservación y la agricultura climáticamente inteligente”

Intertribal Agriculture Council (nationwide). Project Title – Embracing Culturally Relevant Outreach Techniques to Serve Socially Disadvantaged Tribal Producers

Louis E. James – (states included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee). Project Title – Six-State Climate Smart Agriculture Outreach and Technical Assistance

Morehouse Parish Black Farmers & Landowner Assn. – (states included Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi). Project Title – Leveling the Playing Field: Conserving the Ark-LA-Miss Delta’s Natural Resources

Third Sector New England, Inc. (nationwide). Project Title – Expanding Equity and Conservation for Refugee Beginning Farmers

Uncle Jerry’s Farms, Inc. – (states included Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi). Project Title – Outreach to historically underserved farmers and ranchers to provide access to information via drone technology to increase economic yield, adapt to changing weather patterns, and enroll additional participation in NRCS programs.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Project Title – University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Racial Equity and Justice Conservation Outreach Training Program

Winston County Self Help Cooperative – (states included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia). Project Title – Stronger Together: Assisting Historically Undeserved Farmers & Ranchers Implement Natural Resources Conservation Practices Across the Rural Southern Black Belt.