The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) announced today that competitive grant funds will be available for technical assistance, education and research projects in management intensive grazing. Applications for all projects must be postmarked by March 29.

"Pasture-based systems are one of the keys to preserving Wisconsin’s working lands,” Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen said. "With over 40 percent of dairy farmers using pasture as a primary source of forage, these grazing grants help provide the technical assistance, research and education many farmers are asking for.”

Funding for the program comes from both state and federal sources. Projects will be funded competitively after final funding levels are known, with funds available by this summer. The funds are available to county, state and federal agriculture and natural resource agencies; colleges and universities; nonprofit organizations; grazing networks; and farmers using managed intensive grazing.

“This program has strong support at both the state and federal level,” said Laura Paine, program coordinator at the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. “We have a good track record of effective projects funded by the Wisconsin Grazing Initiative. Education grants help fund the activities of grazing networks and allow organizations and agencies to conduct grazing schools, workshops, and conferences on management intensive grazing, whereas technical assistance grants provide funds for grazing specialists to work one-on-one with farmers to develop their grazing system.”

The research program requires farmer involvement from planning onward. On-farm projects are especially encouraged, but research can be conducted as University of Wisconsin farmer-assisted projects as well.  “We’ve supported a wide range of research projects from environmental performance to irrigation,” Paine said. “The key is to make it relevant to the farmers’ needs.”

“Many grazing farms can significantly reduce their capital investment and labor costs,” said Nilsestuen. “Almost half of the state's beginning dairy farmers are using grazing as a strategy for getting started. We’re pleased to be able to support this trend with these grant dollars.”

Materials for the 2010 grant application will be available on the department’s web site the week of Feb. 1 or go to the DATCP home page and search for "grazing grants."

Source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection