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Conservation Innovation Grant Creates Market Opportunity for Small Grains in Midwest

Posted by Lucas Isakowitz, NRCS Presidential Management Fellow in Conservation
Oct 13, 2021
Attendees gather in Alec Amundson's oat field during his Practical Farmers of Iowa field day on July 13, 2021

Thanks to the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, a coalition of partners including Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and Sustainable Food Lab are tackling water quality, soil health and greenhouse gas issues in the Midwest.

Through a series of CIGs, PFI and its partners are helping regional farmers introduce small grains and cover crops into the traditional soy and corn rotation, which can help break up pest cycles (meaning less pesticide use), while increasing the amount of carbon and nitrogen stored the in the soil. CIG-funded pilot programs helped demonstrate how cost-share and technical assistance could facilitate this, and now partners are working to address the lack of a downstream market by working with 11 supply chain partners, including Cargill, General Mills, McDonalds, Oatly and PepsiCo.

“The only way to get a landscape that is less dependent on high-input agriculture is to figure out how we can incentivize crop diversification,” explains Elizabeth Reaves, Senior Program Director for Agriculture and the Environment at Sustainable Food Lab. “Thanks to these grants, we’ve be able to leverage the cost-share and technical assistance that is needed and engage companies in the supply chain on the value of creating a market for sustainable grains.”

In 2020, the CIG-funded program enrolled over 120 farmers, planting almost 12,000 acres of small grains in the Midwest.

To read more about this CIG project, visit the NRCS website.

Scott Wedemeier shows farmers his summer cover crop seed mix, which he seeds after small grain harvest
Category/Topic: Conservation