Pa. grants help fund grazing systems

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SALEM, Ohio – Farmers in 16 Pennsylvania counties can apply for their share of $160,000 in cost-share dollars to start or upgrade rotational grazing practices.

The grant is part of the statewide Growing Greener program.

The grant is administered by Project Grass, a cooperative effort by farmers, conservation districts and the USDA to improve agricultural productivity on farms in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Counties in the operating area include Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Centre, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

Deadline approaches. Each county in the Project Grass operating area is set to receive $10,000 in cost-share funds if contracts for the expenditures are drawn up and signed by April 1.

Funds not spoken for by that time are forfeited by the county and put back into the state’s Growing Greener fund.

Projects are 75 percent cost-shared, with a 25 percent match required of the landowner.

The full county amount can be split among numerous farms or allocated to one producer, according to Ed Feigel, district manager of the Allegheny County Conservation District.

“There’s not really a limit on how much one can get. Decisions will be made on a case by case basis in each county,” he said.

“But the more applications we have to chose from, the better. It helps us make the best use of the funds.”

Eligible use. Funds may be used for selected best management practices that implement or complement rotational grazing systems.

Examples of eligible uses are fencing; water systems, including spring development and piping; stream crossings; and alleyway stabilization.

Seeding, liming and fertilizing of pastures are not eligible for funding, but areas disturbed when something like a stream crossing is installed can be reseeded with the grant, Feigel said.

Objectives. Project Grass objectives include better utilization of the state’s grasslands, especially in the hills and valleys in the southwestern counties, and to improve economics and efficiency for small farms.

The initiative emphasizes spring development and streambank stabilization.

It has also demonstrated that a longer grazing season cuts down on feed costs and that clean water accessed from springs leads to better animal health, according to a report issued by John Dawes of the Western Pennsylvania Watershed Protection Program.

Act now. Farmers must act quickly to assure that project applications can be processed before the April deadline.

For more information in Allegheny or Beaver County, call Lynn Vozniak, an agricultural conservation technician, at 724-774-7090.

Interested farmers in other counties should contact their local Natural Resource Conservation Service office.

(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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