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Sweeping view of farmlands in Nebraska under cloudy sky.
Nebraska farmlands Richardson County agricultural lands south of Humboldt, Nebraska. © Chris Helzer/TNC

Food & Water Stories

Partnering with NRCS in the Great Plains

The Great Plains of North America is a largely agricultural region. From breadbasket to sustainable beef, the food grown here relies on healthy land and water.  The Nature Conservancy and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work together across five Great Plains states—Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota—to help farmers and ranchers improve the health of their soil and make cattle grazing more sustainable. The two organizations are working together to get key conservation programs that are funded through the Farm Bill directly on the ground. 

Photo of cows grazing in a field in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Grazing Options Today cattle replicate the grazing patterns of the bison and elk that once roamed the tallgrass prairie. © Jim Griggs

Kansas

NRCS programs are used by Kansas farmers and ranchers in places like the Flint Hills, where conservation easements protect some of the last tallgrass prairie in the world, and in western Kansas, where land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program provides critical nesting habitat for grassland birds.

Two ranchers stand in a field with cows in background.
Ryan Cox & Kent Wamsley Ryan and Kent at Little Creek Farm in Harrison County, MO © Kristy Stoyer/TNC

Missouri

In Missouri, NRCS and TNC have partnered on projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. At TNC’s Little Creek Farm, the support of the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant has helped connect sustainable agriculture practices with local landowners through farm and field days and other outreach efforts. NRCS and TNC also collaborate through the Missouri 4R Initiative, a program to improve soil health and limit the amount of harmful runoff in rivers and streams.  

Photo of several sandhill cranes in a field.
Sandhill cranes in a corn field during their annual migration stop along the Platte River in south central Nebraska. © Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy

Nebraska

In Nebraska, TNC works with the NRCS on key programs in places like the Sandhills, where ranchers use fire to keep globally significant, intact grasslands healthy and full of wildlife, and the Central Platte River, where farmers are now enrolling in a recently-launched soil health program

Photo of wildflowers with wetland in background.
Monarchs and Cows The Lazy KT Ranch welcomes monarch butterflies and cattle alike. © Katie Blunk

Oklahoma

NRCS and TNC teamed up to increase pollinator habitat on producer lands through the Okies for Monarchs outreach program. The two organizations also work together to protect grazing lands in the Red Hills with conservation easements.

Photo of 3 ranchers installing riparian improvement structures.
Stream Reconstruction Staff from The Nature Conservancy and Americorps built riparian structures along a degraded stream in western South Dakota © Lori Brown/TNC

South Dakota

With funding from NRCS, South Dakota State University, South Dakota Corn Growers Association and TNC are developing a roadmap for optimal implementation of conservation practices to reduce risk of drought and flooding. NRCS and TNC also work together to help landowners improve the health and resilience of prairie streams on private land in western South Dakota.