Supporting Native American farmers and ranchers with climate-smart grazing

New program offers incentive payments, technical assistance and education to producers who adopt certain conservation practices on their grazing lands
calendar icon 7 November 2023
clock icon 4 minute read

Farm Journal Foundation and the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) are launching a new program to support climate-smart grazing practices among Native American cattle farmers and ranchers.

The program, which will work in partnership with Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Yield Lab Institute, will offer a combination of direct incentive payments, technical assistance, and education to producers who adopt certain conservation practices on their grazing lands. It will also better enable Native American cattle producers to participate in carbon and branded commodity markets and create pathways to join US Department of Agriculture conservation programs. This new program, developed through support from the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative, officially launched today at IAC’s Eastern Oklahoma and Southern Plains Regional Summit.

“We are at a critical moment with pressing climate issues that not only impact each of us globally but have meaningful consequences for the original land stewards of this country,” said Kari Jo Lawrence, Chief Executive Officer of IAC. “Our partnership with Farm Journal Foundation not only furthers IAC’s mission-driven work with Tribes and Tribal producers nationwide, it offers climate-smart benefits with increased opportunities for economic growth in Indian Country.”

How to enroll

Enrollment is now open for this three-year project, which will provide approximately $1 million in direct funding to producers to enable them to implement one or more designated climate-smart conservation practices. The program will work with Native American producers in three states – Florida, Montana, and Oklahoma – whose primary source of business income comes from beef cattle farming. Both small-scale and large-scale producers are encouraged to apply.

To enroll, producers can go to the Conservation Programs page on the Farm Journal Foundation website to learn more and to take a short survey to start the sign-up process. Click here to start the process. 

What's included in the program

The program will incentivize the adoption or expansion of a variety of practices, including adopting prescribed grazing, establishing fencing and watering facilities, planting native or perennial seeds, pasture and hay planting, and other work. In addition, producers who join the program will have access to in-person, location-based technical assistance for beef grazing and production, classroom-based learning events, online training, and web-based resources such as educational video content.

“We are excited to launch this new program that will put Tribal producers at the forefront of climate-smart agriculture,” said Tricia Beal, Chief Executive Officer of Farm Journal Foundation. “Native American producers, including both small-scale and large-scale farmers, are fierce stewards of the land, and this work will recognize the benefits of traditional Tribal grazing and increase access to conservation incentives to expand the use of sustainable practices.”

Historically, Native American producers have faced barriers when trying to access USDA programs due in large part to the complex relationship between the US federal government, Tribal nations, and individual Native American farmers and ranchers. In some cases, this has inhibited the development of conservation infrastructure and economic growth for Tribal Nations. Approximately 75 percent of farms managed by American Indians and Alaska Natives specialize in livestock production, often excluding them from programs prioritizing crop-side incentives.

In addition, this new program will enable Native American producers to get credit for their conservation practices by creating pathways to connect with carbon markets. ESMC will provide support to validate farmers’ greenhouse gas emission reductions, soil carbon sequestration, and other environmental benefits generated from this project.

Senior Project Manager Jake Deutmeyer, who is leading ESMC’s participation, noted, “This program is an exciting opportunity for ESMC to expand into areas beyond traditional row-crop systems to showcase the beneficial impact that Native American livestock systems have on landscapes across the country. We can document the improved outcomes in our science-based, standards-based Eco-Harvest program and monetize the outcomes to benefit these producers. The opportunity to participate in this program also ensures that Eco-Harvest is inclusive to as many types of producers as possible – especially those that have been traditionally left out of agricultural market programs.”

The goal of this project is to create lasting benefits both for Native American agricultural livelihoods, as well as the land and environment. To help ensure long-term impact, the Yield Lab Institute will map the propensity for adopting climate-smart farming practices within Native American communities, creating an analysis tool that can be used to determine where conservation efforts can be expanded in the future.

“We are extremely excited to launch this important project for livestock farmers, particularly those in Native American tribes and communities,” said Brandon Day, Chief Operating Officer of the Yield Lab Institute. “The deliverables, the mapping analysis and tool, we hope will serve as a resource for Native American livestock producers to measure, validate, and monetize the value that they create. As a global agtech think tank, we will deploy our methodology and technology portfolio to do just that."

Farm Journal Foundation

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