AgCenter economist educates producers on conservation funding sources

AgCenter economist Naveen Adusumilli is finding ways to reach out to agricultural producers and educate them on the federal and state programs that pay subsidies for on-farm water and soil conservation methods such as cover crops or reduced tillage.

Adusumilli and his team search news reports and government websites and bulletins to find U.S. Department of Agriculture program updates, funding allocations and new conservation initiatives which they disseminate via a monthly newsletter and the Louisiana Agriculture Policy account on X, formerly known as Twitter (@LA_AgPolicy).

Following the various programs that assist producers takes a great deal of work, Adusumilli said.

“Few farmers are so proactive that they would constantly keep checking these programs so that they can take advantage of those funds that are available,” he said.

Agencies that pay subsidies, such as the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry — which works through 44 local soil and water conservation districts in the state — and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are often understaffed. While they do take calls and answer questions from producers, the producers need to know what programs exist and how they can access them.

The NRCS pays subsidies through the well-known Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program as well as other programs, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and National Water Quality Initiative.

“If farmers can understand how to navigate their conservation adoption, they can dip into these little pots of money that are available, and they can improve conservation practices on the ground,” Adusumilli said.

Adusumilli and three students help find these opportunities and create the monthly, two-page Louisiana Commodities and Conservation Newsletter, which is sent to NRCS office staff and to AgCenter Extension agents, who then send it to interested producers.

Adusumilli also worked on an agricultural subcommittee for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ task force that developed the Louisiana Climate Action Plan (Tasks 14, 15 and 16). Over a year and a half, Adusumilli and the other subcommittee members discussed what kind of funding the state should support for agricultural producers and how it should reach them.

One topic they discussed is how to work with the NRCS to develop a program where funds are routed through federal climate action initiatives to the state to expand conservation activities for 10-year periods.

“When there are funds within programs available for a longer number of years, there will be more interest from farmers to continue that activity,” he said.

Adusumilli also leads economics graduate students in evaluating how the conservation programs are implemented, developing data on how the initiatives are adopted in Louisiana.

Some states have more programs and bigger budgets to support conservation.

“We are aware,” Adusumilli said, “and we are trying to find ways to fill in those gaps.” Kyle Peveto

9/5/2023 9:14:24 PM
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