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USDA offers sustainable agriculture grants


Farmers and ranchers with innovative ideas on improving their operations through sustainable agriculture practices can apply for funding to try out those ideas.

The USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program offers competitive grants for on-farm research, demonstration and education projects, said Debi Kelly, University of Missouri Extension SARE state co-coordinator.

For the round of grants to be issued in 2012, about $400,000 will be available to farmers and ranchers in the USDA's North Central Region, which includes Missouri.

"Projects should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results with other producers," Kelly said.

Since 1992, SARE has issued more than 800 grants to farmers and ranchers studying such topics as alternative grain crops for animal feed; biological weed and pest control; marketing; energy alternatives and conservation; rotational grazing; livestock and crop production systems; and soil and water conservation.

Three types of grants are available: individual grants ($7,500 maximum); partner grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations working together ($15,000 maximum); and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations working together ($22,500 maximum).

The deadline for applying is Dec. 2. SARE will evaluate proposals and budgets in early 2012 and send out grant contracts in the spring.

In September, MU Extension's Beginning Farmers program will hold three Monday-evening webinars on the SARE farmer/rancher program:

Sept. 12--Kelly will provide an overview of the program.

Sept. 19--Linda Hezel, a 2008 grant recipient, will discuss her project comparing coverings and permanent raised beds to extend the growing season.

Sept. 26--Greg and Nancy Rasmussen, 2010 grant recipients, will talk about using gravity and solar power for rainwater capture and re-use.

Each 90-minute webinar starts at 7 p.m. For those unable to participate, recordings of the webinars will be available through the Missouri Beginning Farmers Online Learning Community.

For information about connecting to webinars or joining the Online Learning Community, see http://beginningfarmers.missouri.edu/webinars.aspx.

For information about SARE grants in the North Central Region, see www.northcentralsare.org. The website includes a downloadable document containing the detailed call for proposals, sample budgets and grant proposal form.

If you have questions, contact Debi Kelly at 800-433-3704 (in Missouri only) or 573-882-1905.

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