August 11, 2022
Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post written by Margaret Krome, Policy Program Director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, an NSAC member based in East Troy, WI.
Champions of managed grazing are celebrating the release this week by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of a call for applications for the newly revived Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). While the program previously funded up to $27 million to provide technical assistance and education, GLCI’s funding was cut for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 and was never restored prior to the successful win of $14 million in the FY 2022 appropriations bill. The anticipated amount for cooperative agreements under this year’s request for applications (RFA) is approximately $12 million.
As explained in the NRCS call for applications, GLCI aims “to expand the delivery of conservation technical assistance to support grazing planning and conservation practice implementation and monitoring, conferences and other education, demonstrations, producer networks, workforce training, research and outreach projects to improve agricultural resilience.”
In a national sign-on letter in the spring of 2021, over 130 signatories made the case for restoring GLCI funding. The letter explained that well-managed grazing operations can improve profitably, introduce new farmers and ranchers into livestock management, and help new farmers and ranchers stay in their rural communities.
Further, the letter noted, “effectively managed grasslands also can protect water quality, improve soil health, and provide a good habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Operations that keep cover on the ground year-round increase water retention and can also reduce the impacts of flooding.”
Advocates and grazing educators know that peer-to-peer education and grazing technical assistance to help producers develop and implement grazing plans are essential to maximizing successes and opportunities presented by grazing. In the summer of 2021, after Senate appropriators included GLCI funding in their FY2022 bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and other grazing advocates met with NRCS to propose implementation for the restored program. Advocates are pleased the GLCI call for applications so closely reflects the requests made in the campaign for its funding.
Cooperative agreements funded through GLCI this year will range in amounts from $150,000 to $300,000, totaling $12 million. There is no minimum award amount, no match requirement, and funded projects can last up to two years. Application information can be found in the call for applications. The deadline for applying is September 22, 2022, with notification of awardees or non-awardees by October 20, 2022.
Eligible applicants include non-profit NGOs, farm organizations, state and local conservation agencies, extension services, tribal governments and organizations, and land grant universities, including 1890 and 1994 and Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions. Applicants are encouraged to start their paperwork as early as possible since multiple government identification numbers and accounts are needed to successfully apply.
Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director for the Izaak Walton League, praised the congressional champions who led in GLCI’s restoration, especially Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for her leadership in the Senate, and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Andy Harris (R-MD) in the House.
“We are thankful to have Members of Congress who understand how important well-managed grasslands are and how beneficial the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative is in helping farmers and ranchers learn from each other,” Hovorka noted.
Jesse Womack, NSAC’s Conservation, Energy and Environment Policy Specialist noted that GLCI’s supporters did not succeed in further increasing funding for GLCI for FY2023 but said that “with groups across the nation expected to receive and use GLCI funding this year to build technical assistance, education, and grazing networking, we are excited to see fresh on the ground success through this revitalized program. We also hope Congress will continue to expand its funding in future years to meet the growing needs of the nation for the benefits of grass-based agriculture.”
Categories: Carousel, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs