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News Release

New conservation initiative assists ranchers of ruminant animals

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 (NRCS) 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 (EQIP), 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 your local field office or visit our website.