NRCS provides $19.5M+ in tech, financial conservation aid to Caribbean farmers in ’21
In 2021, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided more than $19.5 million across its different programs to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the agency announced.
“Our data shows that we and our partners brought a healthier resource base and were able to impact farmers and communities by bringing more-efficient customer service and investing in targeted conservation initiatives in 2021,” said Luis Cruz-Arroyo, NRCS state conservationist for the Caribbean area.
In the Caribbean area, NRCS and its partners helped land managers invest in their operations through 307 new Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts worth more than $7.9 million. This work resulted in conservation plans for more than 18,600 acres of farmland. Another more than $5 million was invested to apply conservation practices on 17,367 acres in the Caribbean area through existing contracts, the agency noted.
Last year, the agency targeted its efforts to conserve some Puerto Rico’s and the USVI “most-valuable resources,” including water quality improvement practices that were implemented on more than 12,000 acres, grazing land conservation practices, which were applied on 8,364 acres, cropland conservation was applied to improve soil health and quality on 3,765 acres, irrigation efficiency was improved on 1,358 acres, and more than 17,950 trees were delivered to Puerto Rico’s farmers through the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Initiative.
Meanwhile, NRCS continued to provide technical and financial assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to repair watershed damage from Hurricanes Irma and María and Tropical Storms Dorian and Isaías.
The agency completed all water clearing and snagging projects still pending post-Hurricane María and Tropical Storm Isaías — a total investment of $3.9 million to complete 73 projects. This accomplishment was achieved in tandem with several entities including the VI Department of Public Works; Caribe, Oeste and Suroeste Soil and Water Conservation Districts; the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER, in Spanish) and several Puerto Rico municipalities.
Finally, in 2021, NRCS invested more than $1 million in grants and cooperative agreements to assist farmers and field offices. NRCS also provided Conservation Technical Assistance to more than 8,500 clients and media outreach to more than 1.6 million residents through more than 2,500 separate activities and contacts.
More than 99% of the financial assistance the agency provided went to beginning, limited-resource or socially disadvantaged farmers, and 19% of its Fiscal 21 participants were women, 7% were black and 89% were Hispanic, the agency confirmed.