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News Release

USDA Accepts Grant Applications for Conservation Innovation Efforts

Grant Program Links Public, Private Groups to Improve the Environment and Preserve Resources

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for competitive grants to develop and accelerate conservation approaches and technologies on private agricultural and forest lands.

"Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) have contributed to some of the most pioneering conservation work on America's agricultural and forest lands," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's an excellent investment in new conservation technologies and approaches that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can use to achieve their production and conservation goals."

About $15 million will be made available nationwide by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). State and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental and educational organizations, private businesses and individuals are eligible to apply. The application period will close March 7, 2014.

Vilsack said priority will be given to applications that relate to nutrient management, energy conservation, soil health, air quality, climate change, wildlife, economics, sociology, environmental markets, food safety, historically underserved groups, or assessments of past CIG projects.

“These grants are critical for developing and demonstrating out-of-the-box ideas for conservation on America’s private lands and strengthening rural communities,” NRCS State Conservationist Mike Sullivan said. “They inspire creative problem-solving that boosts the production of our farmers and ranchers and ultimately improves our water, air and soil.”

In the 10 years that NRCS has administered the program, grants have helped develop water quality trading markets, demonstrated ways to increase fertilizer water and energy efficiencies, as well as address other resource concerns.

For example in Arkansas in 2013, the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation in Brinkley received a grant to demonstrate the use of a case management model to design and deliver conservation services to underserved farmers and landowners in Arkansas participating in NRCS programs. The grant program enables NRCS to work with public and private partners to accelerate technology development and adopt promising approaches to address natural resource concerns.

Also in 2013, the White River Irrigation District in Hazen was awarded a grant to implement new rice production practices on 10 percent (200,000 acres) of rice production acres by 2016; develop an analysis tool that assesses rice production practice options and economic risks; develop a record keeping tool that tracks farmer decisions that is acceptable for carbon trading; and develop an automated mapping capability using satellite imagery to map soil moisture, water use, and track rice practice adoption across the region. The region includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

For more on this grant opportunity, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/cig/index.html. To apply electronically, visit www.grants.gov.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America's farmers and ranchers conserve the nation's soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.