USDA Announces $26 Million Investment to Spur Agricultural Innovation
Matching Contributions by Public and Private Partners Bring Total Investment to $59 Million for 45 Projects to Address Water Quality and Other Conservation Concerns
WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the investment of $26.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) into 45 projects that will spur innovative conservation initiatives on both rural and urban farms across the country. Public and private grantees will 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 like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change.
The 2016 projects focus on water quality, conservation finance and assistance to historically underserved USDA customers. Approximately 25 percent of the funding announced today will go to projects that benefit historically underserved producers, military veterans, and new and beginning farmers.
"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," said Vilsack. "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."
With funding from this announcement, USDA 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 far exceeded the initial funding target of approximately $20 million. USDA is making an investment of $26.6 million today, which will leverage an additional $32.5 million in matching investments from the grantees, more than doubling the federal investment.
In 2015, CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based conservation solutions. Of the 45 projects receiving funding today, 13 are conservation finance awards. These new projects support the design and implementation of approaches to attract private capital to working lands conservation. The selected projects address diverse natural resource issues such as pollinators; sage-grouse conservation; forest, carbon and corporate chain sustainability; and organic farming.