USDA Doles Out $20 Million in Conservation Grants

Grants in 38 states fund 66 projects designed to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies and approaches that can help producers maintain viable agricultural operations.

Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey awarded nearly $20 million in Conservation Innovation Grants Monday to 38 states to fund 66 projects designed to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies and approaches that can help producers maintain viable agricultural operations.

"These projects exemplify cooperative conservation and continue USDA's partnership with public and private entities to promote practical, innovative solutions to manage our natural resources," states Rey in remarks to the annual meeting of the National Association of Resource, Conservation and Development Councils. "When matched by our state, local, tribal and private partners, these grants will support research to improve the quality of our air and water, while conserving our land."

CIG funds pilot projects and conservation field trials that can last from one to three years. The total value of the approved projects exceeds $48 million after the grantees match at least 50%. Grants for approved projects cannot exceed 50% of the total project cost. The federal contribution for a single project cannot exceed $1 million.

As part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service administers CIG, which provides competitive grants to state and local governments, tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals to promote the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applicants from 45 states submitted 180 project proposals and requested about $63 million. Projects must involve EQIP-eligible producers.

This fiscal year's grantees include 3 resource conservation and development councils, 7 conservation districts, 4 state and local governments, 13 non-governmental organizations, 22 colleges and universities, 2 tribes, 12 business entities and 3 individuals.

Approved projects address traditional natural resource issues concerning agriculture such as water quantity, water quality improvement, livestock nutrient management, grazing lands and forest health, and soil resource management. In addition, projects also address emerging natural resource issues including agricultural air emissions, energy conservation and market-based approaches to conservation.

USDA allocated $4.1 million to address natural resource concerns in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This 64,000 square-mile watershed covers parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. These states will use the funding to carry out diverse projects to address water quality and other priority natural resource concerns.

As part of its outreach efforts, USDA will fund 6 proposals valued at $1.6 million to help tribes and limited resource producers in 11 states to address natural resource issues as well as energy efficiency and market-based approaches.

Additional information about CIG, including summaries of approved projects, is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig. A chart for a state listing of CIG projects can be found at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/2006awards.html

TAGS: USDA
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