Producer-led watershed protection grants awarded

WI Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection

MADISON – Wisconsin’s latest round of Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants has been awarded to 17 groups of farmers who will work with conservation agencies and organizations to address soil and water issues tailored to their local conditions.

Cropland in the Yahara watershed has an overabundance of soil phosphorus. Researchers say that makes clean lakes and rivers possible only with a revolution in land and water management.

Seven of the groups are first-time grant recipients. Together the 17 groups will receive the full $250,000 available for 2018. Grants range from just over $8,200 up to $27,500, for activities that most often include incentives for farmers to plant cover crops and undertake other conservation practices. All include farmer-to-farmer education via field days, conferences and similar activities.

This is the third round of grant awards since the funding was made available in the 2015-17 state budget. The 2017-19 budget increased the maximum amount that groups could receive to $40,000, up from $20,000 previously.

Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants are intended to give financial support to farmers willing to lead conservation efforts tailored to their own watersheds. The emphasis is on innovation and practices not already covered by other state and federal programs, and the intent is that participating farmers will reach out to other farmers to help them adopt conservation practices.

Producer groups must work with DATCP, the Department of Natural Resources, a county land conservation committee, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, or a nonprofit conservation organization. Grant funds cannot pay for real estate, loans, equipment purchases, or lobbying, and the program places caps on the amount of funding that can be used for staff support to the groups. Each group must start with at least five farmers in the watershed.

Soil experts probe a farm field in Kewaunee County during a field day sponsored by Peninsula Pride Farms. The farmer-led group has hosted field days throughout the year to share new practices on cover crops, minimum tillage and low-disturbance manure application.

First-time grant recipients

Cedar Creek Farmers — $13,000
Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil-Healthy Water — $27,500
Farmers for Tomorrow — $25,730
Farmers of the Sugar River — $11,550
Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance — $12,000
Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers — $21,000
Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council — $13,000
Watershed Protection Committee of Racine County — $13,000

Previously funded projects receiving new grants

Buffalo-Trempealeau Farm Network — $12,000
Farmers of Mill Creek Watershed Council — $23,000
Horse Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council — $12,000
Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families — $13,000
Peninsula Pride Farms — $10,000
Uplands Watershed Group — $13,000
Upper Sugar River Producer Coalition — $12,000
Waumandee Watershed — $8,220
Yahara Pride Farms — $10,000