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

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

Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), will fund two-year projects to expand the provision of conservation assistance to beginning farmers in agriculture, low income, socially disadvantaged or veterans. Projects will support broader USDA efforts to address climate change and equitable program access.

“We are committed to providing a level playing field for those we serve, and we are taking bold and historic steps to advance fairness and eliminate generations of systemic racism,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These partnerships are another example of how we are helping to ensure that historically underserved producers can more fully access and participate in our programs and services. As we’ve said before: Equity will be a critical part of our work on climate change, because America’s farmers and rural communities are on the front lines of climate change. Our work with producers and partners will invest in climate-smart solutions that improve profitability and resilience, unlock new market opportunities and create wealth that stays in rural communities.

The program encourages new partnerships and the development of state and community leadership in conservation for historically underserved growers, with projects focused on one or more of the following key conservation priorities: improving soil health and water quality; provide habitat for wildlife species at risk; improving natural resources and agricultural land productivity; and building and strengthening local and regional food systems and markets.

“The new cooperative equity conservation agreements help historically underserved farmers with conservation and climate-smart agriculture,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state ecologist 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.

Arkansas partnerships include:

American Forest Foundation – (states included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia). Project Title – Expanding 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 Sphinx Foundation of Central Arkansas. Project Title – Assisting and Mobilizing Socially Disadvantaged Clients/Partnerships to Address Food Insecurity Using Urban/Small Scale Agriculture

James Bunch (states included – Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina). Project Title – Empowering Historically Underserved Communities Through Healthy Food Production Systems Using the Seasonal 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 (all over the country). Project Title – Champions of Conservation and Climate-Smart Agriculture (CCCSA) “Campeones en conservación y la agricultura climáticamente inteligente”

Intertribal Board of Agriculture (nationwide). Project Title – Adopting Culturally Appropriate Outreach Techniques to Serve Socially Disadvantaged Tribal Producers

Louis E. James – (states included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee). Project Title – Awareness Raising and Technical Assistance on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Six States

Morehouse Parish Black Farmers & Landowner Assn. – (States included Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi). Project title – Leveling the playing field: Conserving the natural resources of the Ark-LA-Miss delta

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

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

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Project Title – University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Racial Equity and Justice Conservation Awareness 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: Helping Historically Undeserved Farmers and Ranchers Implement Natural Resource Conservation Practices Across the Rural Southern Black Belt.

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