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News Release

USDA Awards $26 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

USDA Awards $26 Million in
Conservation Innovation Grants
University of Kentucky is Among the Entities Awarded to Develop Innovative Agriculture
Approaches in Kentucky

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Christy Morgan, PAS
859-224-7363
christy.morgan@ky.usda.gov

Lexington, KY, August 27, 2012 --- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week $26 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awarded to 59 entities across the nation for projects that test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America's private lands.

Awardees for Kentucky include:

  • American Farmland Trust (IL, IN, KY, OH) $221,364 Coupling precision agriculture with water quality credit trading
  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (OH, KY, IN) $1,000,000 A credit trading registry for the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Project
  • North Carolina State University (AR, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX) $472,962 - Refine and regionalize southern phosphorous assessment tools based on validation and State priorities
  • 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 indices and synthesize and extend lessons and outcomes from three regional indexing efforts

New this year was a special emphasis on water quality trading markets to demonstrate 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.

In early August, one of the grant awardees, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), announced the signing of the first interstate water quality trading compact in the U.S. The states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio signed onto a plan to launch interstate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin in 2012. The grant award will help EPRI develop the trading registry to operate the Ohio River Basin program.

Conservation Innovation Grants are also offered at the State level and in Kentucky , CIG availability was announced earlier in the year to stimulate the development, adoption, and technologies related to water quality, soil quality and agriculture energy.  Applications were accepted from across the Commonwealth.  Kentucky NRCS set aside $200,000 to support the grants in fiscal year 2012. 

Today, Karen Woodrich, State Conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kentucky, announced the selection of two grant projects from the University of Kentucky Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.  The projects will be to develop technologies that demonstrate effectiveness of mobile cloud computing base tools for corn nitrogen management and to demonstrate the potential on-farm environmental and economic benefits of long-term stands of switchgrass. 

"Conservation Innovation Grants help spur creativity and problem-solving on Kentucky's farms," said Woodrich. "They (CIGs) allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future."

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: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

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