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News Release

USDA Awards $25 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

Five Projects in Arkansas Receive Funds to Develop Innovative Agriculture Approaches

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $25 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awarded to 58 entities across the nation for projects that test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands.

Arkansas was home to five projects that will demonstrate innovative approaches to improving soil health, increasing pollinator and wildlife habitat, addressing livestock manure management, producing on-farm energy savings and fostering water quality trading markets. Grant winners pay 50 percent of all project costs.

Projects in Arkansas include:

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service (AR) $969,299

Expanding the Implementation Capacity of Practice 799 (Monitoring)

The goals are to demonstrate the Lower-Cost Sampling Devices for Edge-of-Field Monitoring in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The project will demonstrate telemetry options for prototype intermittent stream gauge to reduce travel costs and develop and deliver an Edge-of-Field Monitoring Training Program.

University of Arkansas (DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV, IA, KS, MO, NE, AR, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX) $57,924

Identify Methods to Refine Phosphorus (P) Indices and Synthesize and Extend Lessons and Outcomes from Three Regional Indexing Efforts

The overall goal of the project is to develop a national database of existing plot- and watershed-scale sites with more than three years of water quality measurement (flow and phosphorous concentration) and sufficient land management information to populate phosphorous indices and predictive models approved under the 590 Standard. This project will compare Phosphorous Index risk assessments with water quality data and validated predictive models for the combined field and watershed sites. It will also synthesize, summarize and describe the science-based information and lessons learned from the three regional Phosphorous Index assessment projects (i.e., Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Heartland Region, and Southern States) and build a harmonized framework that yields consistent P-based risk assessment across the U.S.

Illinois River Watershed Partnership (OK, AR) $132,823

Improving Dissolved Phosphorous (P) in Runoff with Water Quality Improvement Structures

This project proposes to construct a phosphorus removal structure on a poultry farm located in the Illinois River watershed, which will be strategically placed to intercept runoff occurring immediately around a poultry production house. Awardee will also monitor the effectiveness of the structure by sampling inflow and treated water through the use of automatic samplers and flow meters, tracking the reduction of phosphorous load. The goal is to remove 50 percent of the phosphorous load.

North Carolina State University (AR, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX) $472,962

Refine and Regionalize Southern Phosphorous (P) Assessment Tools Based on Validation and State Priorities

The major objective of the project is to coordinate and advance phosphorous management in the South by ensuring that most southern phosphorous assessment tools have been tested based on guidance in the 2011 NRCS 590 standard and compared to water quality data. The project will also use these tools to produce more consistent results across physiographic regions in order to promote greater similarity between regional Phosphorous Index ratings and recommendations.

University Of Delaware (DE, AR, PA) $967,461

Innovative Approaches to Capture Nitrogen and Air Pollutant Emissions from Poultry Operations

The overall goal of the project is to help broiler producers adopt viable, practical, economical and effective strategies to improve their environmental performance, meet applicable federal and state requirements on air and water quality and to achieve strong, sustainable productive and profitable broiler producing operations. Demonstration sites will be broiler producers in Arkansas, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“Conservation Innovation Grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving in our nation’s farms, ranches and forests,” said Mike Sullivan, State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “Conservation grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future.”

New this year was a special emphasis on water quality trading markets to demonstrating how farmers and ranchers can help municipalities and other point sources overcome high pollution control costs. Twelve entities received grant funds for this purpose.

“We believe there are states around the nation that are on the cusp of having thriving water quality trading markets,” Vilsack said. “These grant awards will help develop projects that involve farmers and ranchers while they are helping to improve water quality.”

In a water quality trading program, point sources buy environmental benefits or “credits” from landowners who install specific conservation practices. Water quality trading is a market-based approach that enables facilities to achieve needed pollution controls through the purchase of credits for a particular pollutant. Farmers can produce water quality credits by implementing conservation practices that reduce nutrients or sediment losses, and generally at a much lower cost than a municipal treatment facility. The goal is to achieve water quality improvements more cost-effectively by bringing together willing buying and sellers.

NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues.

For a complete list of CIG awardees and more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit: