Program aids ranchers of ruminant animals

From Press Reports

A new initiative in Mississippi aims to encourage ranchers of
ruminant animals like sheep and goats to make conservation
improvements to their operations.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering financial
and technical assistance through the Small Ruminant Farmer Initiative
to help these ranchers enhance their lands while cleaning and
conserving water and improving soil.

This initiative was created to help meet the need of a growing
commodity in Mississippi. Part of NRCS’ Environmental Quality
Incentives Program, this initiative offers about $500,000 to
Mississippi landowners. April 19 is the deadline for applications.

Assistance through this initiative will help ranchers install a
variety of conservation practices that aim to boost water quality and
quantity and increase soil health. Practices include fencing, ponds
and heavy use protection areas.

Ruminants are characterized by their “four” stomachs and “cud-
chewing” behavior. There are about 150 different domestic and wild
ruminant species, including sheep, goat and red deer.

Eligible land includes pastureland, cutover, abandoned agricultural
areas and converted cropland. Incidental wooded areas are eligible
when existing vegetation will support grazing and browsing animals.
To be eligible, small ruminants must already be present.

“We want to engage Mississippi’s ranchers and encourage them to use
conservation to boost production and improve the quality of our
waterways and soil,” NRCS state Conservationist Homer Wilkes said.
“We are seeing more ranchers of ruminant animals in Mississippi, and
we created this initiative to ensure conservation practices are
available for these operations.”

All participants must meet conservation program eligibility
requirements to receive financial assistance. This initiative places
special emphasis on historically underserved producers during the
ranking of applications. For more information, contact local office.