On Monday, August 22, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the 2011 recipients of the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). Approximately $22.5 million will be awarded to 52 non-profit, private and public organizations addressing natural resource concerns in 40 states across the country.
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.
You can see a list of all of the funded projects on the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) website.
The focus of this year’s CIG projects include reducing odor from poultry and livestock operations, reclaiming mining lands, developing ecosystem markets, and expanding solar energy use on farms. They 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 2011 CIG Awards
Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts received $73,500 for conservation outreach to non-English-speaking poultry producers.
New North Florida Cooperative Association, Inc., was awarded $580,000 to develop and demonstrate conservation practices (some using new technology) that can be easily and inexpensively adopted by limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers.
South Dakota State University received $859,000 to demonstrate cattle mob grazing effects on the productivity and profitability of grazing land, plant species, soil and water quality.
$195,623 was awarded to the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition to develop and demonstrate ways to retrofit existing conservation buffers to better prevent nutrients from entering waterways from field drainage systems. This project will focus on Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
The Quasar Energy Group, a privately held company, received $1 million to demonstrate the effective use of anaerobic digesters to process livestock waste in the Grand Lake St. Mary’s watershed in Ohio. The project will also focus on preventing livestock nutrients from reaching the Mississippi River. The Quasar Energy Group plans to build a large-scale anaerobic digester, which will cost $2.2 million to build. We hope that this project will be used to help small and mid-sized farms, many of which have winter season problems with manure management, rather than focusing on large-scale operations like confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with waste streams that can overwhelm the capacity of land in the watershed to absorb nutrients.
NSAC’s Own CIG Project
Ten NSAC member groups along with NSAC staff and a number of external consultants are working together on a three year CIG project managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology to provide advice and assistance to NRCS on how to better integrate sustainable and organic agriculture into NRCS programs and practice standards. Project partners will evaluate and propose revisions to more than 50 NRCS conservation practice standards and enhancements to facilitate participation in NRCS programs by sustainable and organic producers. We will also analyze the capacity of Technical Service Providers (TSPs) and NRCS technical staff to provide assistance to organic producers, provide training for TSPs, NRCS staff, crop advisors, organic certifiers and organizations, and develop revised guidance materials for NRCS conservation planning.
The project partners are organized into four coordinated teams with the goal of making consensus recommendations to NRCS after gathering widespread input from farmers, experts, and NRCS and other agency staff.