|Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program into a single coordinated program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. ACEP provides financial assistance for easements granted to state, local, and tribal governments and conservation organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs, administered through state NRCS offices. Easement priorities vary by state, so contact your state NRCS office for further information. Applications will be accepted through June 6, 2014.
Grass Fed Certification for Small Producers
The USDA-AMS has designed a less costly application and verification process to encourage small and very small producers of grass fed beef to take advantage of the USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef label. The pasturing requirements to become certified are the same required by the established program, but this new program attempts to minimize the administrative burden for small businesses. Producers who market 49 cattle or fewer per year are eligible for this new program. Read more about this opportunity in the USDA blog.
Pasture People: Laura Paine
Wisconsin Conservation Report Hightlights Winter Bale Grazing
The recently-released NRCS Wisconsin Report 2013 highlights winter bale grazing as a cost-effective and conservation-minded way to continue rotational grazing year round. The case study describes how a family farm transitioned to managed grazing from a conventional dairy operation with the help of NCRS training and EQIP funding, and the lifestyle benefits that the aging producers are enjoying as a result. Read the entire report, including the Top 40 Conservation Practices by investment money, here
Laura Paine spends her days as the region’s first Grazing Broker, facilitating partnerships between landowners and graziers to optimize the use of pasture. She conducts site visits to assess whether grasslands are appropriate for grazing, she assesses the needs of the landowner as well as the grazier, and she helps to negotiate leases. Then she heads home to her family’s grass fed beef farm, for a little time with the herd.
Early on, Laura determined that she could effectively impact environmental health by working with farmers to make agriculture more conservation friendly, and spent 20 years in teaching and researching grazing with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, the UW College of Agriculture, and the UW Extension Service. In her new role as a grazing broker, she’s built on this experience by educating both landowners and graziers not only about the technical aspects of managed grazing, but also about the soil health and habitat restoration benefits it brings. Her workshops are well attended, with both landowners and producers interested in “doing the right thing,” but still there exists a knowledge gap surrounding these grazing partnerships. Many landowners are unaware of the variety of options they have for leasing their land. Laura helps them better understand their land and make decisions for it that reflect their goals. By bringing like-minded landowners and farmers together to use each unique landscape in a sustainable way, Laura’s work helps to transition land to more sustainable management.