The State Conservation Commission (Commission) was created by the Legislature in 1939 to support conservation districts through financial and technical assistance, administrative and operational oversight, program coordination, and promotion of district activities and services. Conservation districts work with landowners on a voluntary basis, providing incentive-based conservation help on private lands.
The Sustainable Farms and Fields Grant Program (Program) was established in 2020 to distribute funds to conservation districts and other public entities to help implement projects approved by the Commission. No more than 15 percent of funds may be used to develop and publicize the Program, and no more than 5 percent of funds may be used by the Commission to cover administrative costs of the Program. No more than 20 percent of the funds may be awarded to any one applicant.
Allowable uses of grant funds from the Program include:
Applicants for equipment purchase grants under the Program may be farm, ranch, or aquaculture operations coordinating as individual businesses or as formal cooperative ventures. Conservation districts may apply for grant funds to operate an equipment sharing program. The Commission must attempt to achieve a geographically fair distribution of funds across a broad group of crop types, soil management practices, and farm sizes.
A Sustainable Farms and Fields advisor network is established at the Commission to assist agricultural producers and food processors in increasing energy efficiency and utilization of green energy, sequestering carbon, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission must develop a network of Sustainable Farms and Fields advisors whereby conservation districts will hire, host, and share the services of Sustainable Farms and Fields advisors. Sustainable Farms and Fields advisors will:
Allowable uses of funding from the Sustainable Farms and Fields Grant Program are expanded to include:
Down payments on equipment is removed as an allowable use of grants. Provisions allowing grant applicants, such as farms, ranches, or aquaculture operations, to apply to share equipment purchased with grant funds is also removed. Public entities may apply for grant funds to operate an equipment sharing program.
The Commission must attempt to achieve a geographically fair distribution of funds across a broad group of commodities, climate-smart and energy efficiency practices, and farm sizes. The report that the Commission must submit to the Legislature every two years on the performance of the program must also address the performance of the sustainable farms and fields advisors.