USDA grant will help turn red acres green in Iowa and Minnesota

USDA-grant-photo.jpgThe USDA has awarded Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever a new Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) for just under $1 million, to be used in Iowa and Minnesota. The grant is part of a larger, nationwide effort to support on-farm conservation innovation trials.
On-farm trials support widespread adoption of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with local agricultural producers. The projects chosen will increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help ag producers promote climate resiliency and boost the soil health of their operations.
Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are partnering with Practical Farmers of Iowa in this effort. The project is testing a new financial assistance model that promotes precision agriculture and conservation strategies on a farm-wide scale. This will help identify specific, unprofitable acres within an operation for conservation and incentivize enrolling those acres in habitat programs.
“Ag producers will work with a Pheasants Forever precision ag and conservation specialist to help identify unprofitable or less productive areas of a field, then a plan would be put together to convert those specific acres to an alternative land use,” said Josh Divan, the Iowa state coordinator for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We can look at any number of federal, state or local programs that are available for those problematic acres.”
The financial incentive is paid on the acres that remain in production and is based on the percentage of a field that’s enrolled into a habitat program. Participating ag producers must agree to maintain that management change for at least five years.
“The more problem acres that are moved into perennial cover, the higher the incentive is,” Divan said. “Participants are incentivized to focus production on their very best acres and to enroll acres ill-suited for growing crops into a conservation program.”
The project is slated to run for five years, and Divan said the goal is to work with 80 ag producers across Iowa and Minnesota. In total they hope to analyze over 25,000 acres, and impact 3,200 acres directly through the new financial assistance model. There will also be an education and outreach portion. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have partnered with Practical Farmers of Iowa to coordinate multiple events and storytelling efforts per year to help get the word out about the project and allow new potential applicants to interact and learn from farmers who have already participated.
“We’re excited to be partnering with Pheasants Forever to bring more technical and financial resources to farmers for precision conservation,” said Jorgen Rose, program coordinator with Practical Farmers of Iowa. “Practical Farmers has a long history of farmer-led education and outreach; farmers learn best from other farmers, so by telling farmer stories and connecting producers we can motivate lasting change and have a broader impact.”
“It’s also important that the programs we’re developing will work for farmers,” Rose continued. “An important part of this project will be groundtruthing this approach in collaboration with Pheasants Forever and growers.”
The Conservation Innovation Grant incentive payment is paid on the acres within a field that stay in production following the profitability analysis and subsequent habitat enrollment.  The payment tier is dictated by the original field size and the percent of adoption:
  • Low adoption of alternatives ($8.00/ac): 5%-9% of the original field
  • Medium adoption of alternatives ($18.00/ac): 10%-15% of the original field
  • High adoption of alternatives ($26.00/ac): 16%-30% of the original field
For more information about this Conservation Innovation Grant or to learn more about opportunities to partner on wildlife habitat conservation projects, contact Josh Divan at or (515) 708-2371.
About Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 120,000 members and 750 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent over $975 million on 560,000 habitat projects benefiting 22 million acres nationwide.
Media contact
Casey Sill