Incentive Program Overview

The SmartAgGro Pilot seeks to improve agricultural productivity, sustainability, and resiliency by implementing innovative technologies and data-driven solutions throughout Mississippi Congressional District 2 and surrounding areas of Mississippi. The SmartAgGro Pilot will steer underserved agriculture producers toward improving business operations management and increasing product yield in new markets by implementing USDA Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF) Practices. Team Vanguard’s SmartWay Incentive Program will provide material and cash incentives to approved producers for the following five (5) USDA Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSAF) Mitigation Activities (Subsets):

  1. Soil Health – Mississippi Code: 340 MS CPS Cover Crop 2016,
  2. Soil Health – Mississippi Code: 345 MS CPS Residue and Tillage,  Management Reduced Till 2016,
  3. Pasture and Hay Planting – Mississippi Code: 512 MS CPS Pasture & Hay Planting 2022,
  4. Grazing and Pasture – Mississippi Code: 528 MS CPS Prescribed Grazing 2022, and
  5. Nitrogen Management – Mississippi Code: 590 MS CPS Nutrient  Management 2013.

Step 1: Incentive Program Eligibility Screening

Four groups are defined by USDA as “Historically Underserved,” including farmers or ranchers who are: Beginning; Socially Disadvantaged; Veterans; and Limited Resource. For more information on the definitions of these four groups, click the following link:

In order to be eligible for the Smart-Way Incentive Program, an underserved producer must:

  1. Establish Farm Records with the Farm Service Agency (have farm, tract, and field numbers in place);
  2. Complete an AD-2047 (Customer Data Worksheet to facilitate the collection of customer data for Business Partner Records);
  3. Certify highly erodible land conservation (HEL) and wetland conservation (WC) compliance via Form AD-1026, Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification; and
  4. Certify that they are not a foreign person or entity.

Farm, tract, and field numbers are required for the underserved producer, and provided to Vanguard (OTE) Consortium, to report Climate–Smart practice implementation to USDA, as well as to certify and maintain HELC/WC compliance.

This requirement will require that some underserved producers that do not already have these numbers, like perennial crop growers or forestland owners, establish these records with USDA.

In order to demonstrate HELC/WC compliance, underserved producers will need to request a copy of their subsidiary print from their field office and provide this documentation to the grant awardee as proof of compliance.

The underserved producer will then provide this documentation to Team Vanguard as proof of compliance. Also, a current-year subsidiary print will be required for each crop year that the producer receives a payment.

HELC/WC eligibility information is provided under the AD-1026 and Conservation Compliance sections of the subsidiary. Underserved producers will need to have control of the land for the term of their beneficiary contract.

Step 2: Incentive Program Credentialing

Purpose. The Smart-Way Incentive Program (SWIP) aims to provide financial assistance and support to socially disadvantaged and underserved producers in agriculture and ranching to improve soil health and business operations management.

Goals and Objectives. The Smart-Way Incentive Program (SWIP) aims to improve soil health using CSAF, increase business operations’ efficiency, and reduce production’s environmental impact. Through the SWIP, we hope to increase crop yields, reduce the need for chemical inputs, and improve producers’ profit margins. To achieve these goals, the SmartAgGro Pilot will provide materials and financial assistance for soil health improvements, training on business management practices, and market access opportunities.

Eligibility. After completing Step 1 requirements, underserved producers must be registered with the USDA and operate within Mississippi Congressional District 2 or surrounding state areas. Each prospective underserved producer must complete a Current and Pending Funds Forms to mitigate duplicate funding receipt.

Criteria for Selecting Producers. Producers are selected based on completing learning requirements on time with the highest passing scores, demonstrating a need, and not participating or receiving funds from another USDA initiative for activities similar to the SmartAgGro Pilot.

Participation. To participate in the SWIP, producers must complete an online Learning Plan consisting of several courses and develop a Conservation Plan with technical assistance from Team Vanguard. The producer enrollment period begins in the second month of each performance period, except for the first year when the enrollment period starts in the first month. A Funding Selection Board will review funding applications, and awardees will be required to sign an agreement affirming their compliance with the terms of the program. Non-selects may request feedback and recommendations for improvement.

Rewards and Incentives. The incentives offered through the SWIP include a combination of materials and a cash stipend valued at $26,500.00. These incentives support soil health and business operations management.

Fair and Equitable Distribution. To ensure equitable distribution of incentives, Team Vanguard will use a selection process that entails 1) Demonstrating Climate-Smart competency scores and 2) Interview Questions (principles and quality centric).

How to Start the Process

If you believe that you meet eligibility for the Smart-Way Incentive Program, click the following link to complete the process: Smart-Way Incentive Program Interest Form.

A representative from Team Vanguard will contact you within 48 business hours.

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