A grant to Sustainable Northwest will fund the first regenerative ranching program in the West. (David Zaitz/Special to Oregon Capital Chronicle)
One of the largest charities in the Northwest has awarded nearly $500,000 for a ranching project to protect the environment and help ranchers earn more money.
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, said Wednesday it is giving nearly $489,000 to Portland-based Sustainable Northwest for a regenerative ranching program. Regenerative ranching involves using certain grazing practices, like rotating cattle on the land, and planting certain grasses and forage plants to help the land, climate, water and wildlife. The practice replenishes nutrients in the soil, captures carbon, helps prevent droughts and fosters biodiversity.
More than 100 family ranches that belong to the marketing cooperative, Country Natural Beef, have signed up for the program.
Steve Moore, executive director of the trust, said the program is in line with the charity’s founder, Jack Murdock, who believed in celebrating and preserving the environment.
“Ranchers in the Pacific Northwest play a vital role in helping our region thrive but face a variety of challenges, including development, climbing costs, climate change and more,” Moore said in a statement. The “new regenerative ranching program provides an innovative, sustainable solution that helps our natural landscape thrive while simultaneously growing local business.”
Dylan Kruse, vice president of Sustainable Northwest, said the nonprofit was thrilled with the grant. It will hire a director for the program next month and staff.
“This has provided us with the critical resources we needed to build it out and hire the necessary staff to implement it,” Kruse said.
He said this will be the first project of its kind in the West.
“There’s no single standard or program that focuses on regenerative ranching,” Kruse said.
The land owned by the Country Natural Beef’s members spans 6.5 million acres, including in Oregon and California. Each ranch will each get a plan tailored to local conditions, climate and soil type.
“We’ll be mapping their ranches and creating a baseline, with soil sampling,” Kruse said. “We’ll look at where they have an opportunity to implement these techniques.”
Kruse said the regenerative ranching allows the land to capture more water and fosters the diversity of plants and animals. It also helps fight climate change.
“You’re able to maintain the health of the soil and when you do that you’re able to sequester more carbon,” Kruse said.
Interest in regenerative agriculture, which includes not tilling the soil and planting cover crops, has grown, Kruse said. Customers will pay ranchers more for meat when they now the beef was raised with regenerative techniques.
“They’ll be able to maintain their competitive edge in their core markets,” Kruse said, and charge a premium as well.
He said Sustainable Northwest will attest to the use of regenerative ranching, which will allow the ranchers to attract more customers.
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