Friday, March 11, 2016

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USDA Commits $20 Million to Innovative Conservation Projects
Proposals sought for water quality, outreach and conservation finance

BOISE– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of up to $20 million in competitive grants through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. The program aims to spark the development and adoption of innovative, cutting-edge conservation technologies and approaches for farmers, ranchers and other landowners. Two million dollars of this Fiscal year’s CIG funding has been set aside for projects targeted toward historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, and those with limited resources.

Administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CIG is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and is designed to focus on innovative conservation projects that promote science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Projects may include on-farm pilot projects and field demonstrations, and are funded to accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies to landowners in order to address critical natural resource concerns.

“In Idaho, CIG proposals targeting soil erosion and soil health (cover crops, no-till, nutrient management) have seen the most success,” said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist for Idaho. “With all the emerging technologies happening here in Idaho, I’m really hopeful to see innovative proposals from our traditional and non-traditional partners alike – including Universities and Research Centers – that will merge this exciting field of science with agriculture to accelerate conservation among Idaho’s wide-ranging producers in way that is simultaneously resource sustainable and economically beneficial.”

In addition, this year the USDA is seeking projects that develop innovative investment strategies to leverage private capital for private lands conservation. CIG funding may be used to help mitigate risk associated with new conservation investment vehicles. Successful proposals will demonstrate a likelihood of success and clear metrics for conservation outcomes warranting the use of public funds to support risk mitigation strategies.

CIG awards are made through a nationally competitive process. Projects may be single or multi-year, but cannot exceed three years. Projects must involve EQIP-eligible agricultural producers or landowners. At least 50 percent of the total cost of CIG projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including in-kind contributions.

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