AVON, Minn. — When the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, a significant amount of funding became available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service earmarked for conservation practice adoption by farmers and landowners. However, although government agencies handle applications for that assistance, at times there may not be enough staffing to service landowners, making it difficult to meet applicants’ needs. Additionally, navigating how to apply for those funds and finding the right service providers to implement them can be tricky.
When NRCS issued a call to private companies to partner with and help them meet those needs, Nate Hylla, CEO at Kanati Land Management in Avon, responded. Kanati, a conservation company, has existed for five years, but Hylla served from 2007 to 2021 as a project coordinator and lead engineer technician through the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District where he gained experience working with landowners to apply for financial and technical assistance programs.
“There’s a shortfall of capacity, not enough staff in government agencies, to service landowners at a time when there is record-level conservation funding through the Inflation Reduction Act over the next three years,” Hylla said. “We’d like to add some capacity to get more conservation on the ground.”
Kanati Land Management teamed with Anez Consulting in Willmar, owned and operated by Kami Anez, to write and submit a proposal to NRCS for a grant through the public/private partnership effort.
Anez Consulting’s business model provides landowners assistance with their agronomic and business goals and good stewardship of their land. The proposal submitted by the two companies spelled out how they could help NRCS accelerate delivery and implementation of technical and financial assistance to landowners specifically located across the West Central Technical Service Area.
WCTSA includes the twelve counties of Benton, Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Morrison, Pope, Stearns Stevens, Swift and Todd.
The proposal, called the Accelerated Conservation Delivery and Implementation Project, was approved by NRCS, in part due to letters of support for their plan submitted by Minnesota Milk Producers Association, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Through their plan, Kanati and Anez aim to work side-by-side with NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and other government entities whenever appropriate to provide comprehensive conservation plans for landowners within the designated area.
The two companies can provide design, implementation and checkout services for engineering, ecology services and conservation including all aspects of soil health, crop analysis and sustainability. Through public/private partnership, they can utilize various funding streams and programs.
Hylla said their plan offers a one-stop service for farmers and other landowners in the WCTSA who are registered or are planning to register with Farm Service Agency or are in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s system. They can help landowners combine and meet their multi-use land goals through personalized plans. Kanati is able to implement and/or construct a vast variety of conservation practices.
“For instance, if there is a dairy farmer who has a river bottom and wants to be able to forever hunt that land, there are programs to protect that where the farmer could also gain an income,” Hylla said. “Plans that combine different types of land uses are not a focus of all government employees where oftentimes wildlife or agriculture are omitted from the conservation. Sometimes, the government agency simply lacks the capacity to deliver the programs. We want to deliver the entire system to land owners.”
Kanati Land Management and Anez Consulting, Hylla said, complement each other well with their individual strengths.
“Anez will handle all the engineering, wetland services and agronomy,” Hylla said. “Kanati will handle all the consulting, conservation planning and implementing of projects if desired. We are able to actually do all the work, such as conservation reserve program plantings or wetland restorations. We are a full-service land-management company that can do everything from start to finish.”
They also plan to address specific needs of farmers.
“For farms, we’re looking at economic, social and environmental factors,” Hylla said. “We look at generational or succession planning and a long-term vision for their specific operation. For example, we’re going to do a comprehensive whole-farm plan that may identify ways to improve water quality, gain an income and sustain the land for the next generation to take over.”
Their project aims to help farmers access all funding available.
“We are going to leverage all cost-share programs — whether it be local, state or federal — to meet the farmer’s or landowner’s goals,” Hylla said. “Engineering costs and conservation planning costs can be covered through our partnership grant. Typically, those costs can be challenging to meet. In a lot of cases, farmers and other landowners can spend $15,000 in just engineering costs alone.”
Year one of the three-year opportunity for utilizing increased funding, Hylla said, will be dedicated by Kanati and Anez to planning with farmers and other landowners. The final two years will involve further construction, development and implementation of certified conservation plans, ending in September 2026.
The first step in launching the Accelerated Conservation Delivery and Implementation Project, Hylla said, is getting the word out about what can be done for clients. They are reaching out through social media, phone calls, handouts, emails and other ways. They have also scheduled complimentary learning luncheons in 10 cities across their service area as well as two virtual meetings.
The first luncheon will be held Nov. 29 in Little Falls. Details about it and other meetings, as well as information about how to sign up for their program, can be found at Kanati Land Management’s Facebook site.
“The key piece of the puzzle is building relationships with landowners and becoming a trusted advisor for them,” Hylla said. “There is a huge need for somebody like us to streamline all the different trainings, entities and information that clients usually have to navigate. We can help them skip all of that, and they can jump right into achieving what is good for their land.”
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