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June 9, 2017

The Conservation Fund Receives Two USDA Awards to Drive Innovation in Agricultural Conservation for Historically Underserved, Young, New, Military Veteran and Other Farmers 

“The Conservation Fund is proud to be the recipient of two Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awarded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The NRCS’s partnership-driven approach inspires creative problem-solving that boosts production on farms, ranches and private forests; and ultimately improves water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat in ways that benefit local communities.

For nearly two decades, we have partnered with the NRCS to implement effective strategies to improve soil health and water quality, to restore forests on private lands and to protect the way of life for farmers and ranchers nationwide. 

These innovative projects awarded today help conservation work for people, communities and landscapes by encouraging strong local economies, healthy food systems, and social and environmental justice. By utilizing expertise in conservation finance, agricultural conservation, land acquisition, community development and small business support, we hope these projects will serve as a model for both reimagining local food systems and for empowering historically underserved, new, young, veteran and other producers to access land and agricultural resources and achieve economic vitality. 

We appreciate the leadership of the U.S. Congress, which made the program possible in the Farm Bill of 2002 and subsequent appropriations, and the leadership of the USDA-NRCS in conservation innovation. Leveraged by at least 1:1 non-federal contributions, these CIG awards will accelerate cutting-edge, market-based conservation solutions around the country that benefit people, the economy and the environment.”

Equitable Access for Sustained Productivity

Category: Increased Assistance to Historically Underserved and Military Veteran Producers 
CIG Award Amount: $985,423
Geographic Location: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota & West Virginia 

Historically underserved, military veteran, young and beginning farmers across the country face complex, interrelated and systemic barriers in the agricultural sector. A lack of access to capital, coupled with a lack of access to business and sustainable agriculture training, directly impacts a producer’s capacity to engage in conservation activities. The Conservation Fund—in partnership with Food Driven Strategies, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Land Loss Prevention Project, McIntosh SEED, and SC Association for Community Economic Development—will leverage the CIG award to address these barriers and accelerate sustainable agriculture among farmers through community-based partnerships using a triple-bottom-line approach that includes economic, environmental and social benefits. By engaging a network of rural community development financial institutions (CDFIs) through our Natural Capital Investment Fund, the effort will also provide loans to farmers for sustainable agriculture and forestry production, while offering outreach, training and assistance in agricultural enterprise and sustainable production methods. The goal of this initiative is to open doors and break down barriers to access for multiple generations of farmers, ensuring they have the tools they need to thrive. 

Pathways for Producers in the Metro Atlanta Region: Unlocking Capital and Resources to Conserve and Transform Local Food Systems

Category: Conservation Finance
CIG Award Amount: $154,278
Geographic Location: 23-county region surrounding Atlanta, Georgia

The Conservation Fund will leverage the CIG award with private financing to seed the creation of a $5 million Agricultural Conservation Fund (ACF) and program to accelerate the pace of working lands agricultural conservation in a 23-county region surrounding Atlanta, address natural resource concerns, provide pathways for producers to access farmland and USDA conservation programs, and strengthen local food systems. The ACF will use a “buy-protect-lease-sell” approach to increase conservation of working lands, as well as land access for farmers, including new, young, veteran, and historically underserved farmers. In addition, farmers will have access to technical training, financial support and marketing expertise to ensure their success. With NRCS support, The Conservation Fund is creating a first-of-its-kind investment model that has the potential to transform local food production, businesses and agricultural conservation across the region. 

To learn more about this year’s Conservation Innovation Grants, visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service website here.

To view the interactive map of fiscal year 2017 CIG projects, click here

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land.