Oregon ranchers getting funds to make cattle operations more friendly to the environment

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 10:08 PM PST
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JOSEPH, Ore. (KPTV) - Dozens of Oregon ranchers are getting an influx of funds to make their cattle operations more friendly to the environment.

The investment comes in the form of a nearly half-million dollar grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Its purpose is to encourage the practice of “regenerative ranching,” which is designed to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

“Our objective is to manage the cattle in tight groups, which helps soil health and then move those animals quickly and then not have them return to the same piece of land for at least a year,” said Dan Probert, an Eastern Oregon rancher and marketing director at Country Natural Beef, a cooperative of 100 ranchers across the west.

Probert is one of 50 Oregon ranchers participating in the regenerative ranching program through a partnership between Country Natural Beef and Sustainable Northwest, a non-profit organization that works with farmers, ranchers, and timber groups on natural resource management.

“It starts with the soil. When you have healthy soil, you have healthy practices, you get all kinds of great benefits. Carbon sequestration. You get better water capture. You get better wildlife habitat. And you get better production in terms of crops and forage,” said Dylan Kruse, director of government affairs and program strategy for Sustainable Northwest.

After gathering baseline soil data on their land, Probert and other ranchers will be testing again in three to five years to measure the impact of their regenerative efforts.

“We’re talking millions of acres, and just the number of ranchers that can be involved can really move the needle on this regenerative ranching movement,” said Jill Lemke, program director at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

Despite the optimism about regenerative ranching, there is some skepticism from environmental groups, who argue although it’s possible to manage livestock so there’s less impact on the land, it’s unlikely to have no negative impact at all.