November 9, 2016
Farming is equal parts art and science; farmers and ranchers continuously combine their time-tested knowledge and experiences with creativity and innovation in order to develop new practices that help improve their businesses and protect their lands and waters. To support and encourage ingenuity in on-farm resource conservation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs). These grants support the development and testing of promising new conservation technologies and approaches, with the goal of taking one farmer’s or organization’s bright idea and making it quickly available to conservation-minded farmers and ranchers nationwide.
The CIG program is designed to leverage multi-stakeholder partnerships to address a variety of natural resource concerns on agricultural land. These on-the-ground projects help transfer new technology to farmers and ranchers, and, via a farm bill change championed by NSAC, may include on-farm research and demonstration activities as well as on-farm pilot projects. CIGs are authorized and funded under USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
On Friday, November 3, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking new proposals through the CIG program, and will invest up to $25 million in fiscal year (FY) 2017 in projects that spark the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. CIG will fund single and multi-year projects (not to exceed 3 years).
The Announcement of Program Funding (APF) provides more details on submitting proposals, which are due by January 9, 2017.
CIG applicants must be a federally recognized Indian Tribe, State or local government, non-governmental organization, or an individual. Proposals must be sent electronically through www.Grants.gov and emailed as a PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In last week’s announcement, Secretary Vilsack highlighted the important role that innovation plays in developing resilient systems to combat the mounting pressures of climate change:
“Conservation Innovation Grants have played a critical role in developing and implementing creative new methods to conserve the nation’s private agricultural lands and strengthening rural communities. Today’s announcement builds on our support of technologies and approaches that help producers increase resiliency to extreme weather such as drought and floods.”
In order to prioritize new or emerging high priority natural resource concerns, NRCS provides guidance regarding the particular resource concerns or areas of innovation to be addressed in each year’s funding pool. The 2017 focus areas for project proposals include the following:
Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $173 million in more than 400 CIG projects across the country. This year, USDA is continuing its commitment to increasing assistance to historically underserved and military veteran farmers, setting aside up to $2 million of this year’s $25 million in funding for projects that target these farmers and the organizations that support them.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) member organizations have continuously received CIG awards for their innovative conservation work over the years. Examples of past CIG projects, including awards to NSAC member organizations, can be found on our blog.