Funding to provide participating farmers with financial, technical assistance
|The Million Acre Challenge was announced as one of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) fiscal year 2020-2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Classic projects. The funding, which totals $710,000, will go toward providing financial and technical assistance to producers participating in the Million Acre Challenge to help them implement soil health management systems on their farms.
Future Harvest was the lead applicant on this project submission. Additional project partners include the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, The Hatcher Group, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, all of whom provided significant contributions or letters of support.
“We are incredibly excited to use these funds to help farmers adopt soil health management practices that have both environmental and economic benefits to their farms,” said Lisa Garfield, the research director and Million Acre Challenge manager at Future Harvest. “The way the grant is set up will allow a type of thoughtful, whole farm approach to applying soil health principles and management, that is often difficult to achieve without financial and technical support.”
With the help of these funds, the Million Acre Challenge aims to recruit about 30 producers to implement soil health management systems on approximately 5,000 acres of cropland and 500 acres of pasture/rotational grazing land. The collaborative also hopes to partner with Pasa Sustainable Agriculture to track changes in soil health over time and in different soil management contexts through Pasa’s Soil Health Benchmark Study, a multi-state, citizen science research project.
“This funding will help us jump-start our goal of 1 million acres of healthy soil in Maryland by 2030,” said Amanda Cather, Million Acre Challenge project director. “The Million Acre Challenge partners are excited to work with NRCS to help farmers harness the power of a healthy soil ecosystem to grow healthy crops and animals, regulate pest and disease pressure, improve water quality on and off the farm, reduce the risks associated with extreme weather, and help capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. Healthy soil is the foundation of regenerative production and can help our farmers become more resilient and profitable while providing ecosystem services at the same time.”
Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats, and increase climate resilience.
“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief for NRCS. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”
NRCS is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. Projects are awarded through the RCPP.
The Million Acre Challenge helps Maryland farmers build soil health, increase farm profitability, and improve water quality – while making farms resilient and active in the face of climate change. Our farmer-focused collaborative uses soil health science, economics, education, and incentives to achieve our mission. Our vision is enhanced soil and ecosystem health and increased farm profitability on at least one million agricultural acres in Maryland, with significant progress and partnerships in the Chesapeake region, by 2030. Learn more at millionacrechallenge.org.