September 11, 2013
On Tuesday, September 10, USDA announced 33 new Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awards totaling $13.3 million.
Conservation Innovation Grants leverage multi-stakeholder partnerships to address a variety of natural resource concerns on agricultural land. These projects help to transfer technology to address critical resource concerns. Grantees must match 50 percent of the funds provided by the CIG award.
The focus of this year’s CIG projects include beginning, underserved, and small-scale producers, energy conservation, nutrient management, soil health, economics, wildlife habitat, co-management for food safety, and adaptive management. Awards also focus on two watersheds – the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River Basin – that have been targeted because of significant water quality issues.
Some Highlights of the 2013 CIG Awards
Women now own or co-own 50 percent of the farmland in Iowa, and the percentage of those who are sole landowners is rising as they inherit land from spouses and fathers. Comparable data are not available in neighboring states, but similar demographics and agricultural systems are present. A typical Midwestern female farmland owner is 65 and older, leases farmland to a tenant, and is highly interested in conservation and preserving her farm for the next generation. Women, Food and Agriculture Network has been working with Midwest women farmland owners for 16 years. The project goal is to improve soil health across seven states in the upper Midwest by increasing soil health literacy among area women farmland owners, and supporting them improve soil health on the land they own and lease. The women landowners will learn the basics of what constitutes healthy soil, some simple soil testing methods, and best management practices to support healthy soil that they can discuss and adopt with their tenants. A set of publications for women farmland owners about managing for healthy soil will also be developed in consultation with an advisory group of women farmland owners.
Efforts to engage minority and limited resource farmers in conservation efforts often face unique challenges. These landowners and farm operators tend to be older and operate smaller farms with restricted earning capacity. These operators are often less aware of technical assistance opportunities and technical information on new developments, and they often have limited financial ability to invest in new practices that may have conservation benefits. To help surmount these challenges, this project aims to demonstrate the use of a case management model to design and deliver conservation services to enrolled participants. Under this model, the regional Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation Field Agent and farmer participants will assess current on-site operations and conditions and identify opportunities and priorities for improved resource conservation practices. Staff can then assist the farmer in developing and obtaining the needed management skills training as well as the required technical and financial resources to plan and implement identified actions. The project aims to help 300 limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and landowners develop and adopt a plan to conserve soil and water resources and to reduce, control and trap nutrient runoff.
You can see a list of all of the funded projects on the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) website.