The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the availability of approximately $25 million in fiscal year 2010 to fund projects designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) in fiscal year 2010.
“USDA's investment in these grants will advance our goal of producing long-term dividends in environmental enhancement and protection," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The grants will assist producers in using market-based approaches to conservation and innovative technologies that can put conservation on the land."
USDA will use these competitive grants to seek creative solutions to assist producers with emerging and traditional agricultural and natural resource issues. In addition to market-based approaches to conservation, emerging issues include energy conservation, specialty crops, and new methods of tackling climate change. The grants also will fund solutions to improve water, soil and air quality, improve nutrient management, and enhance wildlife habitat and pollinator populations. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers CIG.
CIG, a component of NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), provides competitive grants to federally-recognized Indian tribes, state and local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals. CIG funds one-to-three year projects that targets innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. The maximum federal contribution for each project is $1 million.
The $25 million in CIG funding will be divided into three categories:
National - Approximately $15 million will be available for proposals that address specific CIG resource concerns nationwide such as energy conservation and climate change.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed - Up to $5 million will be available for proposals that address natural resource concerns in the 64,000 square-mile watershed, which includes
USDA encourages beginning farmers and ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, Indian tribes or community-based organizations that service these groups to apply for grants. Ten percent of the total funding is being set aside for this purpose.
USDA will use a two-phased approach to award CIGs this fiscal year. Applicants must submit pre-proposals to NRCS's National Headquarters in