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USDA Funding to Enhance Market-based Approaches to Conservation
Illinois Ag Connection - 04/12/2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture 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.

Mississippi River Basin - About $5 million will be used to address resource concerns in the Mississippi River Basin. This funding will help USDA further advance its recently announced Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative for 12 Midwest and Southern states.

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 Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia.

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 Washington, D.C. by close of business on Monday, April 26, 2010. Applications will be accepted from the 50 states, Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Full applications for selected pre-proposals must be submitted by June 4, 2010. All CIG projects must include agricultural producers who meet EQIP eligibility requirements. For more information about the EQIP eligibility requirements, please visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip.

Information about the CIG Announcement of Program Funding can be found at www.grants.gov where applicants can apply electronically, and at the CIG Web page at www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/cig/index.html.

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