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USDA Requests Proposals for 2015 Conservation Innovation Grants

January 29, 2015

On Monday, January 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its fiscal year 2015 Announcement of Program Funding (APF) for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the CIG program, which provides grant funding for the development, application, and demonstration of innovative conservation technologies and approaches.  Read more about the CIG program in NSAC’s Grassroots Guide.

Pre-proposals are due to NRCS by 4pm EST on February 24. NRCS will select pre-proposals by April 1, and those invited to submit full proposals will be required to do so by April 30.  Proposals sent electronically must be sent through www.grants.gov or to nrcscig@wdc.usda.gov. See the APF for alternative methods.

CIG applicants must provide non-federal funding equal to the amount of federal funds requested. Non-federal funds must be derived from cash and/or in-kind sources.

A total of $20 million will be available in this funding round; however, roughly half of that amount will be dedicated to projects that advance ecosystem service markets (e.g. carbon credit or nutrient credit trading markets) and private financing of conservation.

Within this bucket of funding, for example, proposals that advance greenhouse gas markets (a sub-category within ecosystem service markets) must address at least one of the following:

  • Permanence of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG)-benefitting practices (longevity and risk aversion);
  • Coordination of market-based approaches to conservation;
  • Establish and demonstrate efforts to strengthen regional collaboration and quantification of multiple ecosystem service crediting for a single NRCS conservation practice (also known as credit stacking);
  • Demonstration, metrics improvement, and calibration of GHG tools for use in environmental markets; establish and demonstrate efforts to parameterize ecosystem service quantification tools for use in environmental markets;
  • Integration of new conservation partners; establish collaborative relationships with corporate supply chain initiatives that recognize the instrumental role of NRCS voluntary conservation practices in meeting and exceeding corporate GHG reduction and carbon sequestration targets; or
  • Linkage with entity- and aggregate-level GHG registries—via either developing new quantification protocols and techniques, or refinement and utilization of established agricultural and forestry protocols (carbon market projects should provide linkages with registries).

The remaining $10 million will be available for a variety of project types, including those dealing with soil health, organic production technologies, air quality, water quality and quantity, wildlife, and co-management of food safety and conservation.

Within the soil health category, projects can focus on a variety of conservation practices, systems, and technologies, including:

  • Demonstration and quantification of the ability of soil health assessments (e.g., Cornell Soil Health Assessment, Haney Soil Health Nutrient Tool) to inform fertility recommendations for meeting crop nutrient needs, and relate to other economic and environmental outcomes (e.g., yield, yield stability, input cost, risk, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions);
  • Development of a decision support tool that incorporates the impacts of crop residue/cover crop quality parameters (e.g., cellulose, lignin, C/N) on decomposition and nutrient turnover; or
  • Demonstration and quantification of the impacts of Soil Health Management Systems (e.g., cover crops, reduced tillage) on key soil health attributes 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.

In addition to demonstration and application, the 2014 Farm Bill for the first time authorized NRCS to fund on-farm research through the CIG program. According to the APF:

On-farm conservation research is defined as an investigation conducted to answer a specified conservation-related question using a statistically valid design, while employing farm-scale equipment on farm fields. Specifically, a valid study design will use an appropriate number of replications and statistical analysis of results.

A webinar for potential applicants will be hosted on Wednesday, February 4 at 1 pm EST.

  • https://www.connectmeeting.att.com
  • Meeting Number – 888-844-9904
  • Access Code: 8496135

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Grants and Programs

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