$2.5 Million Available For Colorado Organizations To Implement Soil Health Program

Published online: Mar 03, 2023 Articles Colorado Department of Agriculture
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The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) is now accepting applications from Colorado’s conservation districts and other eligible entities interested in administering STAR Plus grant funding to agricultural producers who expand or introduce soil health practices in their operations.

Improving soil health, a key component of responding to the effects of climate change in agricultural landscapes, can improve available soil moisture, reduce agricultural runoff, decrease erosion, and support more productive, nutritious crops. Funding for these grants comes from the Climate Smart Commodities grant, awarded to CDA from the United States Department of Agriculture last fall. 

“Over the past several decades we’ve learned how cropping methods like no-till, crop rotation can strengthen crop resilience against extreme weather fluctuations and prolonged drought. CDA is expanding the STAR Plus soil health program by providing grants to conservation districts and other organizations working to increase the use of soil health practices across the state,” said Cindy Lair, Program Director for the Colorado State Conservation Board and the lead of Colorado’s soil health program. “Colorado has a robust legacy of soil conservation and soil stewardship and the STAR program has been farmer- and rancher-led from the beginning. The new funding from USDA’s Climate Smart Commodities grant will help Colorado more than double participation in Colorado’s STAR program and scale it up to a national level.”

The Colorado STAR and STAR Plus programs together make up the Colorado Soil Health Program. Right now, more than 120 producers are enrolled in the STAR Plus program through 16 conservation districts and three eligible entities. CDA will award capacity grants to additional conservation districts (CDs) and eligible entities (EEs) to work with farmers and ranchers to implement healthy soil practices. CDs and EEs currently administering the program can apply to support additional producers by filling out the application for existing entities. 

In addition to conservation districts, eligible entities include non-profit or cooperative organizations, Tribes, grower associations, and research institutions. CDA is seeking applications from organizations that regularly work with a network of producers and are familiar with healthy soil and climate-smart agricultural practices. 

Conservation districts and eligible entities act as local experts and grant administrators and are a key part of the STAR Plus Program. Selected CDs and EEs will receive $20,000 to enroll and support up to 10 producers in the STAR Plus Program, and $2,000 per participant per year for ongoing capacity support over the four years of the grant. 

A total of $2.5 million is available for capacity grants and another $5.1 million is available for incentive payments to producers enrolled in the STAR Plus program through their CD or EE.

Application period for eligible entities is now open and closes on Monday, April 3, 2023. Interested organizations should submit their applications via e-mail to cda_soil@state.co.us. More information can be found on CDA’s website.

Individual producers cannot apply for these grants. They can either participate in the STAR program or, to participate in STAR Plus, must go through their local conservation district or eligible entity to enroll. 

The expansion of the STAR Program is funded by USDA’s Climate Smart Commodities Grant. The $25 million in funding from the USDA will, among other projects, expand STAR Plus to up to 25 additional conservation districts and 450 total participants; develop the STAR Rating System for six other Western states; launch a regional network of 35 research fields across seven states; and quantify and validate carbon and water outcomes for producers.

More information about the Climate Smart Commodities grant can be found on the CDA website.