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WI Farmers to Get New Support for 'Managed Grazing'

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Managed grazing is one of several ways farmers can implement climate-friendly practices, and after a lengthy absence, a key source of federal aid has been restored.

Late this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced up to $12 million to be shared by groups providing technical assistance for farmers considering managed grazing.

Laura Paine, outreach coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison-based project Grassland 2.0, said managed grazing primarily relies on pasture forage for livestock.

"It works because it reduces your costs, because the animals are going out and harvesting their own feed and spreading their own manure," Paine explained. "It's very adaptable, and you can use it as much or as little as fits with your system."

Experts pointed out it also protects water quality, improves soil health, and provides good habitat for pollinators and wildlife. The application deadline for funds is Sept. 22. Eligible groups include farm organizations, conservation agencies and tribal governments. Program funding was cut more than a decade ago. Even though it has been restored, the amount is far less than what supporters requested.

Paine emphasized the funding level should serve as a reminder for anyone interested to apply as soon as possible. She noted there will be national competition for the funds, and hopes the process inspires innovation.

"As we shift from generation to generation, we need to always be thinking of, you know, adding some new approaches to reaching audiences, and the farmer population has changed," Paine stressed.

She added there are younger producers coming on board who did not inherit a family operation. Paine, who is also a farmer, used to manage the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative in Wisconsin, and knows the program's effectiveness firsthand.

"Wisconsin has historically had this great combination of state agencies, and educational institutions and nonprofits, working together to provide this combination of technical assistance and education," Paine stated.

The Agriculture Department said project proposals for cooperative agreements should identify and address barriers to getting grazing assistance, to reach more historically underserved producers. Wisconsin's Michael Fields Agricultural Institute led a broad coalition in urging Congress to bring back the program funding.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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