SARE and NRCS: Conservation Partners
SARE is working to identify new partnership opportunities with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Land stewardship and resource conservation are of paramount importance to both SARE and NRCS. Specific areas of focus for both agencies include:
- Grazing and rangeland management
- Nutrient and pest management
- Soil and water quality
- Community development/quality of life
- Resource conservation
Collaboration at Work
SARE and NRCS have been working more closely in the last year to step up cooperation at national, regional and state levels. For example, SARE will be using its vast database of Research and Education projects to assist NRCS staff as they update their National Conservation Practice Standards. SARE and NRCS have many other opportunities to collaborate more closely in areas such as:
Conservation Stewardship Program
SARE State Coordinators are strategizing ways the two agencies can cooperate on the Conservation Stewardship Program, a NRCS program that financially supports farmers and ranchers who are utilizing conservation systems that protect soil, water, air and wildlife.
In Wisconsin, SARE teamed up with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), NRCS, the University of Wisconsin Extension and Land Conservation Departments to sponsor field days that brought together farmers, state and federal agency staff, and other agriculture professionals to see how the CSP program is working for farmers in Wisconsin.
The program was also supported by Diane Mayerfeld, SARE state coordinator from Wisconsin, who set up information booths and encouraged Extension staff to attend the CSP events.
NRCS staff often serve as technical advisers on SARE farmer/rancher grants and as cooperators for on-farm research and partnership grants. RC&D coordinators are eligible to apply for all SARE grants and many have done so successfully.
State-Level Planning & Technical Support
In New Jersey, former Rutgers Cooperative Extension Director Zane Helsel, a member of the Northeast SARE grant-making council, worked with the NRCS State Technical Committee to develop advanced categories for nutrient and pest management under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). New Jersey growers can now receive payments for using pest and nutrient management practices such as reducing certain pesticides, and detailed soil and tissue testing.
Many farmers who have received NRCS incentive or cost-share payments also have received SARE grants. Using NRCS funds for equipment or physical improvements and SARE grants for researching new methods allows farmers to increase financial security and reduce risk as they transition to conservation-oriented farming systems. Pairing SARE's farmer grants with NRCS conservation programs and technical assistance often produces an impact far beyond what a single program or grant could accomplish.