By Annika Fuller, ECO AmeriCorps
There hasn’t been a better time to apply for the Agency’s Farm Agronomic Practices Program (FAP). The Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets offers funding through the FAP program for soil-based agronomic practices that improve soil quality, increase crop production, and reduce erosion and surface runoff. Previously, the funding cap through FAP was $8,000. Beginning July 1, 2023, that cap will increase to $10,000.
The Agency is excited to be able to support more conservation practices on each farm due to this increased cap. Thanks to the State of Vermont bookmarking a portion of federal one-time funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to climate change mitigation, the FAP program is currently supported by “the most money it has ever had,” according to Administrative Services Manager and longtime State employee Jeff Cook.
If you are ready to take advantage of this increased cap and influx of financial support for farmers and the environment, the rotational grazing application is due June 15. Down the road, the application deadline for cover crop and fall manure injection will be August 1, and April 15 for next spring’s conservation practices.
Amber Reed provides pasture technical assistance at UVM Extension and frequently recommends the FAP program to farmers, especially those who rotationally graze. The FAP program pays $30 per acre for rotational grazing.
“It’s inherently rewarding to have good results from rotational pasture management and see your animal growth and performance improve, but it does take a lot of time and effort, so it’s helpful to have the benefit from the state in the short term,” Reed said.
Reed sees rotational grazing as an effort to mimic nature. “Ruminants in general evolved to take some bites, leave and not come back to that place for a while. The electric fence is the wolf, keeping the animals away for a while to let the grass regrow,” Reed said.
Returning to some degree to how nature functioned before farming and fences has a wide variety of benefits to the animals and landscape. There is an increase in biodiversity and wildlife. Water quality also improves as the soil strengthens and the pasture vegetation thickens. According to Reed, rotationally grazed animals also tend to have fewer parasites, making them healthier – and cleaner when they are ready to be processed.
If you are considering applying for the rotational grazing practice under the FAP program, “don’t do it last minute,” Reed said. A grazing plan is required when applying for the FAP program. Building a rotational grazing plan that fits a farm’s specific situation takes time and knowledge, but Reed says that having a plan is important to creating the positive impacts on animals and pastures that rotational grazing can provide.
Luckily, farms can get help from UVM Extension, the Agency’s Pasture and Surface Water Fencing Program, NRCS, Vermont’s Housing and Conservation Board, and their local conservation districts to help create a rotational grazing plan or to improve the one they have. You can also find a grazing plan template at agriculture.vermont.gov/fap, alongside the FAP application.
If you rotationally graze – apply to FAP now and be sure to include in your application any other eligible practices that you plan to install by June 30, 2024.