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USDA grants $5M each to two AZ sustainable food efforts

The USDA has granted two Arizona groups almost $5 million each to support efforts to increase climate-smart agriculture.

One is led by the University of Arizona, and the other involves all three state universities.

The $4.9 million Climate-Smart Agriculture Best Management Practices Pilot Project will work to reduce pesticides and fertilizers, shrink the acreage tilled for planting, diversify cover crops, and promote the resting of pastures and rotational grazing.

It is led by the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts and involves the three state universities along with local farms, sustainable food nonprofits, the Organic Trade Association and the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance.

The $4.7 million Arizona Partnership for Climate-Smart Food Crops, led by UA, will focus on reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint and water use. The team comprises the University of Maryland and three Arizona nonprofits.

Both projects will draw upon the expertise of Native American farmers, and both will market climate-smart foods to ensure farmers and ranchers receive sustainable returns when using the new practices.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ from 2016 to 2024.