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$12.5 Million Available for Conservation Innovation Grants

May 31, 2019


NSAC members learning about conservation techniques being tested at Roger's Farm in Orono, Maine. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik, NSAC.
NSAC members learning about conservation techniques being tested at Roger’s Farm in Orono, Maine. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik, NSAC.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the availability of $12.5 million for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. This funding is in addition to the $25 million in funding that was announced last week for on-farm trials (a new CIG sub-program established under the 2018 Farm Bill). This week’s funding announcement is the traditional CIG option that has been offered in the past and is now being referred to as “Classic CIG”.

The deadline to apply for fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding for Classic CIG is July 30, 2019 at 5 pm EST.

CIG Basics

Part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the CIG program is administered by NRCS and provides grant funding for the development, application, and demonstration of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. Through CIG, public and private grantees work to develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support future conservation efforts on working lands as well as develop market-based solutions to resource challenges.

CIG projects are a critical tool in the effort to transfer innovative conservation management systems, approaches, and technologies to farmers and ranchers. CIGs also help to share conservation research, findings, and best practices with NRCS (for use in technical manuals and guides), as well as the private sector.

CIGs bring a wide range of partners to the table to support innovation – state, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are all eligible to apply. Grantees must match 50 percent of the funds provided by the CIG award through non-federal contributions, which can be either in-kind or cash contributions. Grantees are also responsible for providing the necessary technical assistance; NRCS provides technical oversight for the project.

Successful applications must include conservation approaches or projects that directly involve EQIP-eligible farmers or ranchers. For this FY 2019 CIG application period, up to 10 percent of national funds are set aside for projects targeting historically underserved and veteran farmers or ranchers.

The Classic CIG program has two components – national and state. Yesterday’s announcement is for the national component; it is up to each state office to choose to administer its own CIG competition in FY 2019, using a portion of its state EQIP funds. Several states have already announced funding availability for this year.

FY 2019 CIG Priorities

Each year, NRCS identifies priority categories within CIG that can advance new or emerging high priority natural resource issues. This year’s announcement for Classic CIG included four priority areas: increasing the pace and scale of conservation adoption; water quantity, pollinator habitat, and urban agriculture.

  • Increasing the pace and scale of conservation adoption – Projects should propose innovative conservation approaches to increase the pace and scale of conservation adoption on farms, ranches, and forest lands, including: innovative incentive programs to demonstrate cutting edge approaches to working lands conservation, projects that attract additional funding to private and working lands, approaches that leverage best practices in social and decision science to evaluate new ways to engage producers in conservation, and efforts to quantify the financial benefits of conservation implementation.
  • Water Quantity – Projects should demonstrate, evaluate, and quantify the impacts of new technologies, methods, or approaches that can balance, restore, or enhance agricultural water while maintaining productivity. Potential areas can include: technologies or approaches that increase groundwater recharge without impacting production and yield, conservation approaches that enhance and improve water reuse and recovery, technologies that use automated sensors to improve water quantity decisions, measuring technologies that provide timely data to better manage water resources, and the use of data sources to better manage water resources.
  • Pollinator Habitat – Projects must address the ecological benefits in that pollinators provide in agricultural landscapes, including those that: leverage pollinator habitat to improve agricultural production, improve plant habitat for monarchs, and integrate innovative grazing and haying systems to promote pollinator habitats.
  • Urban Agriculture – Projects must demonstrate innovation in conservation natural resources in urban agriculture, including those related to pollinator habitat, rainwater or water reuse approaches that mitigate food safety concerns, addressing elevated moisture and humidity levels in aquaponic systems, conserving energy, soil management to address heavy metals and other contaminants, and small-scale livestock establishment.

The full funding announcement is available online through grants.gov and includes the details of each priority listed above.

Awards and Eligibility

Awards for national projects can range between $150,000 and $2 million. State, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are all eligible to apply for CIGs. The 2018 Farm Bill expands eligibility to also allow community colleges that are carrying out demonstration projects on the college’s land to apply.

All Grantees must match 50 percent of the funds provided by the CIG award through non-federal in-kind or cash contributions, and are also responsible for providing the necessary technical assistance; NRCS provides technical oversight for the project. All proposed conservation approaches or technologies of the CIG application must involve EQIP-eligible farmers or ranchers.

How to Apply  

The application deadline for FY 2019 Classic CIG funds is July 30, 2019, 5:00 pm EST. Applications can be submitted through www.grants.gov. NRCS will be holding a webinar for anyone interested in applying to the CIG program on June 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm EST. You can also learn about the CIG program through the NRCS website, and via NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.


Categories: Carousel, Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs


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