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Apply Now For Innovative Farm Conservation Project Funding

February 25, 2013

On Monday, February 25, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that it is now accepting pre-proposal applications for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.  The CIG program is a voluntary effort to promote science-based solutions for the benefit of both the farmer and the environment.  CIG applicants are typically non-governmental organizations, State or local governments, or federally recognized Indian Tribes, though individual farmers and technology transfer specialists are eligible.

NRCS is looking for innovative demonstration partnerships that address beginning, underserved, and small-scale producers, energy conservation, nutrient management, soil health, economics, wildlife habitat, co-management for food safety, and adaptive management.

In addition to the national grants category, there are two landscape-level project categories, one for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and one for the Mississippi River Basin.

This year’s pre-proposals are due March 22.  NRCS will announce selected pre-proposal applications by April 15.  Selected applicants will then be required to submit a full proposal package to NRCS by May 13.

Funding for FY 2013 is expected to be around $25 million.  Please note, at least 50 percent of the total cost of CIG projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including cash and in-kind contributions provided by the grant recipient.

We encourage NSAC member and partner organizations to submit pre-proposals, and, where possible, to collaborate in developing multi-group proposals or local partnerships.

Special Topics

We profile two of this year’s special topic areas below.  See the Request for Proposals for the full list of topic and subtopic areas for which projects are requested.

Soil Health — Under the soil health category, NRCS seeks project proposals that:

  • Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of cover crops, crop rotations, tillage and/or soil amendments on soil chemical, physical, and/or biological properties and their relationships with nutrient cycling, soil water availability, and plant growth.
  • Demonstrate and quantify the rate of increase in available soil water holding capacity as a function of soil properties, management practices, and/or climate.
  • Develop optimal species mixes, seeding rates and seeding methods (e.g., inter-seeding, inter-cropping, frost-seeding) to enhance cover crop establishment/survival and increase soil organic matter.
  • Quantify and demonstrate the impacts of Soil Health Management Systems on nutrient losses through surface and subsurface pathways for tile-drained and non-drained soils.
  • Development of a decision support tool that incorporates the impacts of crop residue/cover crop quality parameters on decomposition and nutrient turnover for designing Soil Health Management Systems that optimize nutrient availability, control soil-born diseases, and increase available soil water holding capacity.
  • Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of cover crop presence, species mix, and management on soil water content and subsequent crop yield across a range of climates and cropping systems.
  • Demonstrate and quantify impacts of soil health promoting practices (e.g., no-till, cover crops, crop rotations) on yield, yield variability, and economics of crop production across a range of soils, cropping systems, and climates.
  • Demonstrate and quantify the impacts of Soil Health Management Systems on key soil health attributes (e.g., available water holding capacity, disease suppression, nutrient cycling) and determine the extent to which the rates of change are influenced by climate, organic input chemical composition/placement, and soil properties.  This should be conducted across a range of inherent soil properties, cropping systems, and climates to develop a Decision Support Tool that promotes selection and design of the components of a Soil Health Management System.
  • Demonstrate innovative approaches for adopting soil health promoting practices in relatively cool and/or wet climates (e.g., zone tillage, short season cultivars).  Demonstrate and quantify at a watershed scale the water quality impacts of installing conservation systems that support and improve soil health.

Co-Management for Food Safety — Under the co-management category, NRCS seeks project proposals that:

  • Demonstrate and quantify the effects of conservation practices (e.g., buffers) and/or systems of conservation practices for reducing manure-born zoonotic pathogen transport and survival for different climates and agricultural systems.  This may include pathogens originating from animal production facilities or from wildlife.

You can download the full funding announcement from the NRCS website.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs

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