February 26, 2024

USDA expands conservation assistance to underserved producers

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking applications for projects that will improve outreach to underserved producers and underserved communities about conservation programs and services and opportunities for students to pursue careers in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering up to $70 million in cooperative agreements with entities for two-year projects that encourage participation in NRCS programs, especially in underserved communities and among urban and small-scale producers.

“USDA is committed to removing barriers for underserved producers to all USDA services and the projects funded through this opportunity will better ensure these producers receive the benefits our conservation programs deliver,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby.

“NRCS is investing in continued support of community-based organizations and partners that are instrumental in supporting conservation outreach to underserved producers and underserved communities.”

The Equity in Conservation Outreach Cooperative Agreements will include projects that:

• Promote NRCS program benefits through education and demonstration of conservation practices.

• Develop community conservation partnerships that engage underserved producers to plan and protect farmland ecosystems, watersheds and wildlife habitat in underserved communities.

• Inform small-scale or urban agriculture producers about opportunities to participate in conservation programs.

• Support education on, planning for and adoption of climate smart conservation practices.

Projects should reach underserved groups through a combination of program outreach and technical assistance in one or more of the following five NRCS priority areas:

• Addressing local natural resource issues.

• Promoting conservation career opportunities.

• Expanding adoption of climate-smart conservation.

• Encouraging conservation in small-scale and urban agriculture.

• Developing conservation leadership skills and opportunities.

Program Impacts

This funding opportunity builds on NRCS’ fiscal year 2022 investment of $50 million in more than 100 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry.

Work is underway in 44 states and territories. In the first six months after last year’s outreach cooperative agreements were awarded, 85 new outreach partnerships were established and 32 existing outreach partnerships were built upon.

These partnerships include 15 tribal agreements, seven agreements with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 1890s’ Foundation agreements and two Hispanic Serving Institutions.

As of January, more than 380 outreach events and workshops had been held with over 7,500 people attending and more than 14,000 people had been reached by awardee outreach.

Eligibility

Entities and individuals who provide outreach assistance to underserved groups are eligible. Eligible entities include:

• Federally and state recognized Native American tribal governments.

• Native American tribal organizations.

• Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS other than institutions of higher education.

• Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) status with the IRS other than institutions of higher education.

• Nonprofit private institutions of higher education.

• Public and state-controlled institutions of higher education.

• Conservation districts.

Underserved producers include beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, as well as other underrepresented or disadvantaged communities.

How To Apply

Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 27. See the grants.gov announcement at http://bit.ly/3m5OlDr for details and application instructions.