WI Farmers Hope Grazing Funds Aren't Put Out to Pasture
Congress has been holding hearings on the next Farm Bill, which has major implications for the nation's food system. It also shapes conservation programs, and Wisconsin producers hope a key funding source is not left behind.
The Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative helps farmers carry out managed grazing, where animals are rotated on and off parcels of land for foraging, allowing other sections of the property to recover. Ag experts said it makes the land and animals healthier.
Mary Anderson, council president of the River Country Resource Conservation and Development Council and a farmer from Western Wisconsin, said the initiative's technical assistance is vital.
"We're able to avoid pitfalls, and it helps make our operations more successful," Anderson explained.
Much like hiring a professional to suggest home renovations, a grazing specialist helps a farmer find ways to make their land work for managed grazing. Supporters of the initiative not only want reauthorization in the Farm Bill, but also seek stable funding at $50 million annually.
The bill is passed every five years, and could again become mired in debate over Republican calls for cuts to SNAP benefits.
In addition to technical assistance, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative provides funding for outreach such as conferences and webinars. Anderson pointed out there is a lot of demand, but not enough funding, and not rising to the challenge could hurt the movement.
"So, it's very important that farmers get not only technical assistance, but education," Anderson emphasized. "Then of course, research dollars too, that will guide us to do a better job."
The River Country Resource Conservation and Development Council helps property owners navigate issues as they look to make their land more sustainable. In the most recent fiscal year, the council was revived with a $14 million subsidy, after funding had been cut for more than a decade.