Public and private grantees are expected to provide matching investments, bringing the total value of support to $59 million. The investment is made through USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things such as on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change.
In the case of the NCGA, the $1 million grant will be used to develop a greenhouse gas insetting framework that the association believes it will be able to serve as a model for corporations and other entities to encourage conservation adoption and achieve greenhouse gas reductions and water quality benefits.
The 2016 projects focus on water quality, conservation finance and assistance to historically underserved USDA customers. Approximately 25% of the funding is expected to go toward projects that benefit historically underserved producers, military veterans, and new and beginning farmers, the USDA said.
“The Conservation Innovation Grant program is a highly competitive conservation grant program that helps put the very best conservation tools to work on privately held farms and forests, for maximum environmental impact,” Vilsack said. “This investment will offer farmers, ranchers and forest landowners new ways to protect their natural resources and new revenue streams to keep their operations viable, building on the record amount of conservation work that has already been done under this administration. Demand for this type of support outpaces what USDA can provide alone, but outside partners are willing to make additional investments because they see the good it can do for the environment and for their communities.”
In addition to the NCGA, other groups receiving funding included the Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Kings River Watershed Coalition Authority (KRWCA). The KRWCA will receive $2 million for a project to identify protective practices for Central Valley agriculture, while the Practical Farmers of Iowa will receive $400,912 to test a new model for conservation adoption to increase the number of acres of small grains grown as a third crop in the corn and soybean rotation.
In total, the USDA now has invested nearly $173 million to fund 414 national CIG projects since 2009. For this round of funding, USDA received 170 applications requesting more than $100 million, which exceeded the initial funding target of approximately $20 million. CIG is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The maximum grant is $2 million per project and the length of time for project completion is three years.
A full listing of this fiscal year's selected projects is available here.