Innovation and Incentives Drive New Era of Farming

Gen-O Rising: December 2018
 CROPP's Sustainability Department has lots of resources you can use to start on the path to energy independence. You'll be surprised to learn how much is out there to help you build your renewable energy facility or preserve natural areas on your farm. Innovation and incentives are driving a new era of farming!
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In 2018, a team at Organic Valley has been quietly building a case for members to improve farm sustainability and energy conservation, driven by changing environmental regulations and the availability of technical assistance and financial incentives.

The result is a collaboration of government, corporate and non-profit partners expected to yield more than $5 million in direct farmer grants for emission-cutting manure management, carbon-sequestering soil health and habitat restoration, water quality improvements and farmland protection. None of the work would be possible without the leadership of CROPP’s young farmers and their ambitious vision for a bright organic future.

Young farmers face many challenges— oversupply, volatile markets, steep competition, increased regulation and changing consumer preferences.

This storm of undesirable scenarios has us all digging deep to identify opportunities, strategies and solutions to bring relief to CROPP’s business and each of our member farms.

My job as a sustainability manager at the co-op is to build partnerships to leverage technical and financial assistance for our member-owners. The work can reduce member’s short-term risks and increase long-term viability.

It enables our members to return sustainability to the business, which allows us to position and distinguish CROPP as a world leader in innovative, grass-based farming systems designed to benefit people, animals and planet.

We are inspired by our young farmers and their commitment to organic agriculture, and their desire to increase the long-term sustainability of their farms for future generations. Their motivation, matched by federal and state incentive programs that provide funding for farm improvements, is sparking innovation across our co-operative.

We see this at McClelland Dairy in Petaluma, California, where Jana McClelland is taking her family’s dairy into the future with an innovative flush-to-scrape manure management project that includes a new free stall barn and compost-production area.

Jana is increasing compost application on pasture and restoring habitat along a stream that runs through the property.

The projects reduce the farm’s carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increase soil carbon sequestration and water-holding capacity to meet new California environmental regulations. To this point McClelland farm has spent $800,000 in grant funding on the projects, with an additional $900,000 pending from federal and state governments.

Also in California, Jarrid Bordessa is ushering in changes to his family’s Ocean Breeze Dairy with a similar flush-to-scrape manure management project. The work includes building a new compost-bedded pack barn and compost production area. Jarrid wants to increase composting on his pastures and install plantings along waterways and drainages that transect farm fields. Ocean Breeze Dairy has used more than $700,000 in federal and state grant funds with an additional $450,000 pending.

On the opposite coast, young Vermont dairy farmers like Laura and Jamie Rivers are facing tougher water quality regulations requiring them to make improvements.

The Rivers are using $500,000 in federal and state funds to increase manure storage capacity and improve their barnyard to prevent pollutants from entering the nearby Missisquoi River. Improving farmstead infrastructure is essential to nutrient management and protecting water quality. The Rivers are committed to natural resource protection. The improvements they are making now will return economic value to the farm for years to come.

National advocacy groups and policymakers are taking a deeper look at how farmers can help reduce climate change impacts. New York State recently announced a $30 million incentive program aimed at protecting dairy farms from suburban development.

As a cooperative we are uniquely positioned to share the lessons from these innovative farm improvements across our membership.

Technical assistance including CNMP updates, carbon farm plans, energy audits and renewable energy site assessments help prioritize critical improvements. Financial assistance including grants, cost-share programs and low-interest loans are key to making sure needed improvements get implemented.

We in CROPP’s Sustainability Department can help start you on this path. You also can reach out to your local Soil & Water Conservation District, Resource Conservation District or NRCS Service Center to explore opportunities. In addition, many state departments of agriculture offer financial incentives for innovative farm improvements. And you can look to your fellow young farmers for inspiration and guidance on how to begin planning, financing and building your farm’s future.

To learn more about funding opportunities for your farm and assistance in grant writing, please contact Jessica Luhning, Sustainability Manager, through the Farmer Hotline at 888-809-9297.


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