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$15 Million Available for Conservation Innovation Grants

August 25, 2022

Sunrise over a field of blooming clover plants.

On August 10th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the availability of $15 million for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. This funding is in addition to the $25 million in funding that was previously announced for on-farm trials (a CIG sub-program established under the 2018 Farm Bill), and is separate from the new CIG funding through the Inflation Reduction Act. This funding announcement is the traditional CIG option that has been offered in the past and is referred to as “Classic CIG”.

The deadline to apply for fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding for Classic CIG is October 11, 2022 at 11:59 pm ET.

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 develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support pioneering 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 novel 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 2022 CIG application period, up to 10 percent of national funds are set aside for projects targeting Historically Underserved (HU) farmers or ranchers. HU applicants may also waive the 50 percent non-federal match requirement.

The Classic CIG program has two components – national and state. This latest announcement is for the national component; it is up to each state office to choose to administer its own CIG competition in FY 2022, using a portion of its state EQIP funds. Most states have already announced funding availability for this year.

FY 2022 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 three priority areas: climate-smart agriculture with two subcategories; Combating Invasive Species; Conservation in Urban Agriculture Systems. Further details on each and subcategory descriptions are below.

  • Climate-Smart Agriculture: producer adaptation to extreme weather events – Proposals must propose an innovation to help farmers, ranchers, or foresters react and adapt in the short term to the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and related impacts caused or exacerbated by climate change. Proposals must address one or more of the following: Development of innovative or repurposed planning tools, guidance documents, or practices that help producers manage increased intensity and frequency of weather extremes; Field testing of innovative production techniques that give producers tools to adapt to extreme weather; Community-level or landscape-level strategies that help multiple local producers respond to extreme weather; Communication tools and strategies that help producers interpret local climate related risks so that science, metrics, and general facts can be applied to on-farm operations.
  • Climate-Smart Agriculture: building resilience through emerging production systems for climate smart agriculture – Proposals for developing new production systems that provide long-term, lasting solutions to help landowners build resilience to climate change and maintain viable businesses. Proposals must address one or more of the following: Introduction of new cropping systems or non-traditional crops (e.g., perennial plantings or rotations such as agroforestry, systems that integrate perennial grains into rotation, or transition to xeric farming); Improved operation management, such as innovations in fertilizer management that show potential to mitigate greenhouse gases; Leveraging of community resources that increase cooperation among producers (e.g., shared grazing or water systems) to increase resilience of individual operations; Integration of indigenous farming knowledge into cropping systems, such as multi-story cropping and introduction of native plants.
  • Combating Invasive Species – Projects should propose innovations for private landowners to more effectively prevent, detect, or combat invasive species to maintain healthy and productive working lands. Innovations should help prevent, control, or eliminate pest invasions or help restore land and prevent reinvasion. Each project must fit into at least one of the following three subpriorities: Innovative strategic approaches designed to have a high likelihood of eradication and remove risk of reintroduction, targeting refuge locations and vector pathways; Reimagination of existing strategies to address invasive species with high transferability regionally or even nationally; Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) proposals that support proactive invasive species management, particularly addressing invasive species with broad ecological niches that are expanding their range due to climate change.
  • Conservation in Urban Agriculture Systems – Proposals must address the conservation of natural resources on private lands within urban areas and small agricultural systems and one or more of the following subpriorities: Demonstration of the natural resource impacts or economic benefits that result from increased conservation implementation in urban agricultural systems; Projects that show conservation benefits with the implementation of multistory cropping systems, urban forestry systems, or integrated systems; Development and evaluation of the effectiveness of innovative management systems or emerging and innovative technologies that can improve efficiency and effectiveness of natural resource conservation on urban farms; Translating existing conservation practices that may not translate effectively to smaller and urban production systems by:
    •  demonstrating how to improve conservation planning in urban or small acreage settings
    • demonstrating how to modify or adjust conservation practices in urban or small acreage settings

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 $300,000 and $2 million and one and three years in duration. State, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are all eligible to apply for CIGs. The 2018 Farm Bill expanded eligibility to allow community colleges 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, excepting HU applicants, who may request to reduce their match requirement by half or to waive the match requirement entirely. To waive the entire match requirement, HU applicants must provide a justification in the narrative of their proposal. Grantees 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 2022 Classic CIG funds is October 11, 2022, 11:59 pm EST. The Agency expects to select between 15-20 applications for funding by January 30, 2023,  and execute awards by May 1, 2023. These dates are estimates and are subject to change.

Applications must be submitted through www.grants.gov. Applicants will need to register for a gants.gov account, a System Award Management (SAM) account, and a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) from SAM.gov

The UEI is part of larger efforts to streamline federal grant making processes. Previously, applicants had to obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number and separately maintain a SAM registration. The UEI is assigned by SAM as part of the registration process and replaces the DUNS number.

Follow these links to do your required registrations, or find this information in the full award package posted to grants.gov.

Recorded NRCS webinars for anyone interested in applying to the CIG program are posted here, check in the coming weeks for this year’s webinar. You can also learn about the CIG program through the NRCS website, and via NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Farm Bill, Grants and Programs

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