USDA offers sustainable farming grants

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COLUMBUS – Farmers seeking to produce new crops, market agricultural projects or develop environmentally friendly and viable production systems are invited to apply for their share of $400,000 in grants.

The USDA will offer grants for its Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program for the north central region. Producers in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin are eligible to apply.

Individual producers can apply for grants up to $6,000 and up to $18,000 is available for groups of three or more.

Objectives. “The program basically has two objectives: to give agricultural professionals the opportunity to develop programs in sustainable agriculture, and educate farmers and landowners on producing, marketing or managing agricultural systems,” said Mike Hogan, an Ohio State University extension agent. “The program then allows producers to share that information with others in the industry.”

Projects awarded for funding in the past in Ohio include extending the fall and winter grazing period using turnips, grazing corn and rye; building a high value market for whole lamb; vermicomposting; direct marketing of culinary herbs; and low-input, energy efficient greenhouse construction workshops.

High funding state. “We’ve put forth a concerted effort to help promote the program and identify folks around the state who would be interested in applying,” said Hogan. Last year, the state had the highest number of projects submitted and the most projects funded throughout the 12-state region.

In 2000, nearly $30,000 was awarded to Ohio producers and natural resource professionals for a variety of agricultural and forestry projects. Regionally, more than 380 producer projects have been awarded at a total of more than $2 million since 1992. The national SARE Program began with the 1985 Farm Bill, with Congress appropriating initial funds in 1988.

Deadlines. Applications will be available beginning Feb. 1, and are due March 29. Funding decisions will be made in late June, with funds being available in the fall. For more information, contact your local Ohio State Extension office or log on to www.sare.org/ncrsare.

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