UT Extension Partners on $15.9 Million Grant to Advance Conservation Practices

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Accelerated Urbanization and Population Growth in West Tennessee Prompts Efforts

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — University of Tennessee Extension and partners Agricenter International and Tennessee Wildlife Federation have received a $15.9 million grant from USDA’s NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program to advance conservation practices in West Tennessee. While the 21-county region is rich in cropland and forestland, major new manufacturing facilities and subsequent urbanization and population growth are increasing pressure on its natural resources.

The innovative grant partnership, referred to as the West Tennessee Field and Forest Partnership, brings experience and breadth of knowledge to engage a diverse producer and landowner population and generate conservation benefits. The project will promote practices that contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and wind and water erosion, increased carbon sequestration, improved water quality and resilient wildlife habitat.

“The funding obtained will aid landowners and producers with improving financial returns while balancing environmental stewardship and conservation,” said Aaron Smith, associate professor and Extension economist with the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UT’s Institute of Agriculture. “The program is voluntary and provides significant financial and technical resources to landowners in a region in Tennessee that is in the midst of unprecedented land use conversion.”

West Tennessee producers and landowners will have an array of options to choose from to engage in conservation, a strength made possible by the unique partnership. The project will address common barriers to conservation adoption including financial resource constraints, the need for broader technical assistance to address related issues such as pest management, and uncertainty for operators of rented land. Notably, 75% of the grant funds will be used for direct payments to producers and landowners. Those eligible for the program will be provided technical assistance in both rural and urban communities to successfully adopt conservation practices.

“Along with our excellent collaborators, we remain committed to fostering the success of our farmers, farm and forest landowners and their families for generations to come,” says UT Extension Dean Ashley Stokes. “I want to thank Drs. Ben West and Aaron Smith for their leadership with this program, as UT Extension works with our agricultural producers regarding opportunities impacting farm sustainability.”

Agricenter International is leading the five-year collaboration. In addition to the $15.9 million grant, an additional $1.1 million in partner contributions will facilitate adoption of conservation practices on agricultural and forest land in West Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is composed of the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT AgResearch, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and UT Extension. Through its land-grant mission of teaching, research and Extension, the Institute touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.

Media Contact

Tina Johnson

Agricultural and Resource Economics


Aaron Smith, Extension economist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics