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Conservation project awarded $4.4 million

Conservation project awarded $4.4 million

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The Nature Conservancy has received $4.4 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service for its “Resilient Futures for Nebraska Soil” project.

The application was supported by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and U.S. Rep. Don Bacon.

“This is a good conservation win and an example of how public-private partnerships can work to support Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers in their continued efforts to be good stewards of the land,” Fischer said. “I look forward to seeing how this award, created by 2018 Farm Bill, will foster partnerships to benefit farmers as they care for the land and implement soil health practices.”

Fischer is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The five-year award from NRCS, matched by companies in the agricultural supply chain, will provide farmers in central Nebraska with technical and financial assistance as they adopt soil health practices on an estimated 100,000 acres.

“We know that healthy cropland soils boost fertility, improve water quality, and stabilize the global climate,” said Hannah Birgé, Ph.D., director of agriculture for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska.

“This project will leverage private and public resources to amplify the good work of Nebraska farmers as they scale up soil health practice adoption.”

The Central Platte and Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Districts are partners in the project.

“This project exemplifies the importance of teaming up with the public and private sectors to bring greater resources to bear on our district’s soil health work,” said Lyndon Vogt, general manager of the Central Platte NRD.

Marie Krausnick, Water Department manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD, said area farmers are experimenting with soil health practices.

“This collaboration will accelerate their work and spread practices to new operations,” Krausnick said.

Eligible producers will have the option of implementing three soil health practices: cover cropping, reduced tillage, and diversified crop rotations. The project will serve as an ecosystem services market consortium pilot, which connects farmers to private sector payments for soil health practice adoption. The consortium, while new, provides a way to scale up practice adoption.

“Big companies are looking to improve their environmental footprints in measurable and trackable ways, and farmers can improve the environment in measurable and trackable ways when they adopt soil health practices. The ESMC connects the two and creates a way to pay farmers for their outcomes,” said Debbie Reed, consortium director. “We are excited to ground-truth our methodologies through this project with central Nebraska farmers.”

NRCS Nebraska State Conservationist Craig Derickson said that soil health is critical to keeping Nebraska’s farm and ranchland productive and profitable.

“We are excited to work with The Nature Conservancy and other partners to help improve soil and natural resources in Nebraska,” Derickson said.

In central Nebraska, The Nature Conservancy operates the Derr House Prairie, which is few miles south of Wood River. It is part of the Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, a chain of nearly 5,000 acres of grasslands and wetlands along the Platte River in central Nebraska. Four additional easments total more than 2,800 acres, and more than 1,500 acres managed by the conservancy have been restored to prairie from cropland, which supports the spring migration of the sandhill cranes.

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