Nature Conservancy Awards Funding to Michigan Farmers

Published online: Oct 04, 2021 News Connor Veenstra
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Source: Huron Daily Tribune

According to a press release from the Michigan Field Office, sugarbeet farmers in Michigan's Saginaw Bay Watershed will be able to try strip tillage without financial risk. This is thanks to a new grant recently awarded to The Nature Conservancy and other partners from the USDA.

Strip tillage is an underutilized method of farming, mostly because of how expensive it can be. It’s a way to improve soil health and reduce soil erosion more effectively than conventional tillage methods.

The USDA awarded $1.9 million to the Saginaw Bay Accessing Subsidized Strip-Till Equipment Trial Program. ASSET will use this to develop and deliver a competitive incentive package to Saginaw Valley sugar beet producers. It will include financial and enhanced technical assistance, peer learning networks, and assistance acquiring specialized equipment.

“We are thrilled to begin work on this new initiative that will deliver conservation outcomes in a new and very unique way by addressing barriers to accessing new conservation farming equipment,” said Ben Wickerham, TNC’s Saginaw Bay project manager.

The program seeks to reduce financial and technical risks that have been identified as leading barriers to long term conservation adoption in the Saginaw Bay Watershed, which are especially prevalent among sugar beet growers. Ultimately, the program seeks to catalyze the purchase of 10 new strip tillage implements in the watershed, helping at least 10 sugar beet farms move toward a more conservation-friendly mode of farming.

Wickerham said the project would’ve been impossible without significant contributions made by other partners, which include the American Sugar Company, Environmental Tillage Systems, and Blue Water Conservation District.

“In producing our world-class crop, we want to continue to be good stewards of our land and water, and this program gives our farmers the opportunity to see, first-hand, how this particular conservation practice works and impacts their operations,” said Jim Ruhlman, executive vice president of Michigan Sugar Company.

More information will be released in the coming months through workshops and other public announcements.