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Warner & Kaine Announce Over $1.2 Million in Funding for Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture

~ Federal funding creates opportunities for innovative environmental solutions at Virginia Tech and Appalachian Sustainable Development ~ 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,269,461 in federal funding from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to support innovation in resource conservation and agricultural practices at Virginia Tech and in the Appalachian-Blue Ridge Forests ecoregion of Virginia.

“When we talk about forest farming and pollinator-friendly grazing, we’re talking about some of the most innovative work in conservation and sustainable agriculture, and it’s happening right here in Virginia,” said the Senators. “The work Appalachian Sustainable Development is doing with forest botanicals represents an important step in growing an industry that is creating jobs while conserving our natural heritage. We’re also proud to see Virginia Tech at the forefront of creating market-based sustainable solutions to environmental challenges facing our farmers and our ecosystems.”

Appalachian Sustainable Development will receive $386,539 to use market-based incentives to help forest owners pilot the alley cropping of high-value forest botanicals. This project is intended for use by small, historically underserved forest owners to conserve endangered forest ecosystems. Forest farming is an agroforestry practice that cultivates herbal, edible, decorative, and handicraft non-timber forest products (NTFP) under a forest canopy modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitats that favor growth and enhance production. Forest farming allows farmers to produce and sell raw material that is traceable, unadulterated, and sustainable. In 2016, consumers spent an estimated $7.45 billion on herbal supplements, an increase of approximately $530 million from 2013.

The USDA will also award Virginia Tech $882,922 to research the integration of pollinator-friendly plant species in grazing systems. The project will evaluate the economic and ecological impact of native wildflowers into the Southeastern grazing system.

The funding is awarded through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program at USDA. CIG projects encourage the creation of tools, technologies, and strategies to create market-based solutions to protect our environment for generations to come.