USDA Funding Available
Conservation Innovation Grants
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications for the Conservation Innovation Grants Program (CIG). Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) are competitive grants that stimulate the development and adoption of innovative approaches and technologies for conservation on agricultural lands. NRCS has $20 million available to fund development, application, and demonstration of innovative conservation technologies and approaches and will award approximately 75 grants of up to $2 million each. Ten percent of the funding will be set aside for projects benefiting historically underserved producers, farmers or ranchers who are military veterans, or organizations comprised of or representing these individuals.
Program Requirements and Eligibility
NRCS will accept CIG applications from state or local government entities, federally-recognized American Indian tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals. CIG projects must involve producers who are eligible for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which include the following requirements:
- Be an agricultural producer (person, legal entity, or joint operation who has an interest in the agricultural operation, or who is engaged in agricultural production or forestry management).
- Control or own eligible land.
- Comply with adjusted gross income (AGI) for less than $900,000. Note: Federally recognized Native American Indian Tribes or Alaska Native corporations are exempt from the AGI payment limitations.
- Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements.
- Develop an NRCS EQIP plan of operations that addresses at least one natural resource concern.
Applicants must describe the type and extent of producer involvement in the application narrative. In addition, awardees must secure a non federal funding match of at least 50%. Proposals must be submitted via the Federal Grants website and emailed as a PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4pm on May 10, 2016.
The program was authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill and began awarding funding in 2004. NRCS has awarded nearly $206 million to over 900 projects. In 2015, NRCS funded 22 projects, 6 of which were in the 12-state NESAWG region. Grants awarded in our region funded the following:
- A project led by World Farmers in Massachusetts to assist refugee and immigrant farmers at the Flats Mentor Farm to develop conservation plans and provide training to understand and address risk assessment (flooding), adequate pollination of crops and the relationship to conservation practices.
- A project led by Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association to assist minority producers to overcome barriers that prevent beginning farmers from participating in conservation programs through a peer-to-peer learning model.
- A project led by Nuestras Raices in Massachusetts to collaborate in compiling environmentally sound growing practices and develop a language and culturally-appropriate training program to support the production of Caribbean Latino specialty crops in the Northeast.
- A project led by Cornell University in New York to expand the composition and enhance the utility of the Cornell Soil Heath Test (CHST) into a Comprehensive Soil Health Test applicable on a national scale with regional usability.
- A project led by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to demonstrate innovative manure treatment systems capable of removal greater than 90 percent of the total phosphorus from the manure effluent while conserving the manure nitrogen.
- A project led by Penn State to assist forestland landowners to address biological risks relating to forest regeneration by removing barriers to adopting active forest management.
- Grant application and instructions at Federal Grants website
- NRCS CIG webpage
- Federal Funding Announcement from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Photo: Domes capturing gases from cow manure that was just spread on a corn field in Pennsylvania
Photo Credit: USDA NRCS Pennsylvania