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Grassland 2.0 Aims to Grow Grassland Agriculture in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 10/22/2020

A newly formed collaborative group based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is working to create more opportunities for grazing and other types of perennial grassland farming. It's called the Grassland 2.0 project, made up of a network of UW-Madison researchers, state and local agency staff, milk and meat processors, citizen groups, and other farmers coming together to seek transformative solutions to the growing number of threats facing Midwest food and farming systems.

The project is funded by a grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture and based at UW-Madison. Randy Jackson, a UW-Madison agronomy professor, is serving as the group's leader.

"We're going to need farming practices that simultaneously produce healthy food, support thriving communities, and restore ecosystem processes. Grazed perennial grasslands do that," Jackson said. "This grant is a major win for the thousands of farmers who are grazing across the state and beyond, and a major win for citizens of the upper Midwest, who desperately need incentives, expertise, and policies that promote sustainable agriculture."

According to state and federal researchers, well-managed grasslands can reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff, sequester carbon, increase water retention, reduce flooding, and support wildlife such as native pollinators, trout, and birds, all while providing an income source for farmers and maintaining investment in rural communities.

Jackson says the Grassland 2.0 group will focus on sharing existing information and grazing resources with farmers. They are also working to expand grass-fed markets, identify policy tools that facilitate managed grazing and perennial land cover, and bring together diverse partners at the local and regional level to explore different approaches to expanding grassland agriculture.

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