The U.S. Department of Agriculture–Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) is seeking applications for projects that will improve outreach to underserved producers and underserved communities about conservation programs and services as well as opportunities for students to pursue careers in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. It is offering up to $70 million in cooperative agreements with entities for two-year projects that encourage participation in NRCS programs, especially in underserved communities and among urban and small-scale producers.
“USDA is committed to removing barriers for underserved producers to all USDA services, and the projects funded through this opportunity will better ensure these producers receive the benefits our conservation programs deliver,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “NRCS is investing in continued support of community-based organizations and partners that are instrumental in supporting conservation outreach to underserved producers and underserved communities.”
The Equity in Conservation Outreach Cooperative Agreements will include projects that:
Promote the benefits of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs through education or demonstration of conservation practices
Develop community conservation partnerships that engage underserved producers to plan and protect farmland ecosystems, watersheds and wildlife habitat in underserved communities
Inform small-scale or urban agriculture producers about opportunities to participate in conservation programs, and
Support education on, planning for, and adoption of climate-smart conservation practices
Projects should reach underserved groups through a combination of program outreach and technical assistance in one or more of the following five Natural Resources Conservation Service priority areas:
Addressing local natural resource issues
Promoting conservation career opportunities
Expanding adoption of climate-smart conservation
Encouraging conservation in small-scale and urban agriculture
Developing conservation leadership skills and opportunities
This funding opportunity builds on NRCS’ fiscal year 2022 investment of $50 million in more than 100 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. Work is underway in 44 states and territories.
In the first six months after last year’s outreach cooperative agreements were awarded, 85 new outreach partnerships were established, and 32 existing outreach partnerships were built upon. These partnerships include 15 tribal agreements, seven agreements with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and 1890s Foundation Agreements, and two Hispanic Serving Institutions.
As of January 2023, more than 380 outreach events and workshops had been held with over 7,500 people attending, and more than 14,000 people had been reached by awardee outreach.
Who Is Eligible? Entities and individuals who provide outreach assistance to underserved groups are eligible. They include:
Native American tribal governments (federally recognized)
Native American tribal governments (state recognized)
Native American tribal organizations
Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (other than institutions of higher education)
Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (other than institutions of higher education)
Nonprofit private institutions of higher education
Public and state-controlled institutions of higher education
Conservation districts, and
Underserved producers include beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers, as well as other underrepresented or disadvantaged communities.
How to Apply
Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 27. See the www.grants.gov announcement for details and application instructions.
A pre-recorded webinar is available at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/about/partner-with-us/outreach-and-partnerships/equity-in-conservation-cooperative-agreements-2023