HURON — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $50 million in cooperative agreements to support historically underserved farmers and ranchers with climate-smart agriculture and forestry.

The Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements are available to entities and individuals for two-year projects that expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers.

“Historically underserved producers face significant barriers in accessing USDA assistance for conservation and climate-smart agriculture,” said Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting State Conservationist for South Dakota, Jackie Byam. “The USDA is committed to revising programs to be more equitable, and these producers deserve our support as they contribute to our vibrant and diverse agricultural communities.”

The projects should help historically underserved farmers and ranchers in implementing natural resources conservation practices that:

• Improve soil health,

• Improve water quality,

• Provide habitat for local wildlife species of concern,

• Improve the environmental and economic performance of working agricultural land, and

• Build and strengthen local food projects that provide healthy food and economic opportunities.

Projects should remove barriers to access and reach historically underserved groups through a combination of program outreach and technical assistance in managing natural resources that address one or more of the following four NRCS priority areas:

• Addressing local natural resource issues,

• Using climate-smart agriculture practices and principles,

• Encouraging existing and new partnerships, and

• Developing state and community-led conservation leadership for historically underserved agricultural producers, including educating and training students for careers in natural resources management.

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WHO IS ELIGIBLE

Entities who provide outreach assistance to historically underserved groups are eligible, including:

• Native American Tribal governments and organizations.

• Nonprofit organizations.

• Private and public institutions of higher education.

Historically underserved producers include those who are considered beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers.

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HOW TO APPLY

Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Oct. 25, 2021. See the grants.gov announcement for details and application instructions.

This NRCS assistance builds on other USDA assistance to help historically underserved producers. In July, USDA’s Risk Management Agency invested nearly $1 million in nine risk management education projects focused on historically underserved producers. Meanwhile, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced in April its plans to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The FSA plans to announce those partnerships in the coming weeks.

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