June 1, 2021
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently 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). 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) 2021 funding for Classic CIG is July 19, 2021 at 11:59 pm ET.
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 2021 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. 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 2021, using a portion of its state EQIP funds. Several states have already announced funding availability for this year.
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: climate-smart strategies focused on water quality and quantity and increased resilience; soil health methods for climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, nutrient management to address water quality issues at a regional or watershed level; grazing lands conservation; and increased conservation adoption.
The full funding announcement is available online through grants.gov and includes the details of each priority listed above.
Awards for national projects can range between $300,000 and $2 million. State, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals are all eligible to apply for CIGs. The 2018 Farm Bill 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, 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.
The application deadline for FY 2021 Classic CIG funds is July 19, 2021, 11:59 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 8, 2021 at 3 p.m. ET. You can also learn about the CIG program through the NRCS website, and via NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.