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Conservation Innovation Grants - Ohio

Apply by: March 21 - May 19, 2023

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is a competitive program that supports the development of new tools, approaches, practices, and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands. 

Aerial view of Mt. Toby Farm (left of Connecticut River), in Sunderland, MA, has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) to create their conservation plan that includes the use of Forage and biomass Planting  (512) and Establish and reseed their cover crop during the cool season, on October 18, 2019. Working with Natural Resource Specialist / Business Tools Coordinator Lisa Gilbert who records the progress with the conservation plan. USDA Photo

Learn More About CIG

Explore the new CIG website to learn about funding opportunities, find grantee resources, access information about past projects, and more.

Ohio CIG Grant Proposals

Ohio NRCS has announced the availability of CIG funding to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications will be accepted from eligible entities for projects carried out in the state of Ohio. All non-federal entities (NFE) and individuals are invited to apply, with the sole exception of federal agencies. Projects may be between one and three years in duration. 

All applicants must submit their applications via by 11:59 pm Eastern Time on May 19, 2023.

Watch this Conservation Innovation Grant Webinar for Ohio's FY23 Notice of Funding Opportunity for more information:

Ohio Conservation Innovation Grants

National CIG

American Farmland Trust (CA, IL, OH, NY, VA) ($509,533) - proposes to accelerate adoption of Soil Health Management Systems (SHMS) on land that farmers own and land they rent by: 1) quantifying the economic, soil health, water quality, and greenhouse gas outcomes experienced by farmers who have successfully adopted SHMS, 2) publishing those findings in short, compelling case studies, 3) sharing the case studies with farmers and landowners who are curious about implementing SHMS, and 4) providing tailored technical and financial assistance that may be needed to adopt and successfully maintain SHMS.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (IL, IN, IA, MN, OH, WI) ($1,039,159) - proposes to increase demand for small grains as animal feed and cover crop seed to provide crucial secondary markets needed for farmers to increase small grain acres in the Corn Belt. The project proposes to connect food companies’ desire for increasing sustainability of their supply chains with farmer desire to grow extended rotations that include small grains. Food companies will collaborate to create market solutions to increase demand and production of small grains for animal feed and cover crop seed, positively impacting water quality, soil health and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Ohio State University ($400,111 ) (OH, KY) - The overriding goal of the agricultural energy conservation project is to run a simulation model to optimize livestock ventilation system designs and install high efficiency direct drive electronically commutated (EC) motors, sensors, and controllers on a 2,400 head swine tunnel finishing barn and a 300 head dairy farm. These demonstration sites were selected because they have been participating in an Ohio State University energy study since 2018, producing a detailed baseline energy load profile for ventilation fans on 15-minute time intervals. This baseline data will allow the research team to accurately compare the energy consumption from the two systems to validate energy conservation and estimate the cost savings potential from installing EC direct drive fan motors.

Rid-All Foundation ($888,412.50 ) (OH, MI, NM)  -A group of African American, Native American, and rural-based agricultural and resource use innovators have formed a consortium–the Carboneers Collaborative–to rapidly develop community-based / community scaled appropriate technology that significantly expands the capabilities and financial viability of urban and rural regenerative agriculture practitioners. More specifically, they propose to: utilize renewable bioenergy systems to enable four-season agricultural production; produce biochar as a co-product of bioenergy system generation; and explore additional biochar applications at four (4) demonstration sites.

National CIG On-Farm Trials

Brookside Laboratories ($1,788,545) (IL, IN, MI, OH) - This project will form an On-Farm Evaluation Partnership team to demonstrate how to stimulate the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches through on-farm production-scale field trials in collaboration with agricultural producers. The On-Farm Evaluation Partnership will implement 150 enhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF) evaluations over three cropping seasons in four states using new scientific protocol and an adaptive management approach.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ($5,000,000) (IN, MI, OH, NY, PA, TX, NM, KS, NE, ID,UT) - NFWF will assist Danone in building holistic soil health management systems across its current enrolled farms and others as it looks to expand to producers to reach approximately 100,000 acres of its total dairy supply chain. Soil health practices include, but are not limited to cover crops, improved conservation tillage, nutrient management, crop rotations and vegetative buffers. NFWF and Danone realize that optimizing soil health management may require variations in techniques for producers based on different growing regions. The goal is to build systems of management practices in partnership with farms across different growing regions, to best assess the potential for return on investment (ROI) and environmental outcomes. NFWF and Danone will work together to build holistic soil health management systems to include a variety of regenerative practices such as reduced tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, nutrient management, irrigation efficiency, and field buffers.

North Carolina State University ($2,003,778) (VT, NH, PA, MD, OH, VA, TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, AK, WI, IN, SD, KS, NE, OK, TX, MS) - This project adds new row crop farms to an existing network of producers in an online co-learning environment integrating technology, real-time data flow (aggregation, analytics, and visualization), and decision support tools to promote the use of soil health management principles including carbon storage, nitrogen cycling, and water infiltration and storage.

Water Resources Management Group ($1,967,200) (IL, OH, WI) - This project investigates a variety of innovative conservation approaches directly related to soil health and the use of cover crops, through robust on-farm demonstrations at the plot, replicated strip, field, and paired-basin scale. Approaches have been designed through iterative discussion with six farmer watershed groups to match issues and challenges particular to their geographic region and production systems. Innovative approaches identified include, but are not limited to, on farm trial/demonstration of: i) new commercial technology (Penn State Interseeder); ii) farmer construct/protype interseeder; iii) alternative management systems (mechanical suppression – rolling) and interseeded living mulch; iv) variable row spacing and plant population number in standing crops (aid in the establishment/reduce competition between cover and crop); v) termination of cover crops in organic grazing systems; vi) split manure application (spring and fall) to standing cover crops with minimal soil disturbance for large dairy operations in Northern climates; and vii) general investigations of cover crop species and mixtures for northern climates.

State CIG

American Farmland Trust (Ohio) ($149,990) - AFT is launching a project to improve water quality in the Upper Scioto River Watershed focused on changing the form of phosphorus fertilizer applied by farmers and thereby eliminating an unessential nitrogen application in the fall.  With funding from the Ohio NRCS CIG, AFT will incentivize agricultural producers in the watershed to switch fertilizers.  AFT hopes to significantly reduce nitrate loading and improve the drinking water in the watershed and downstream communities, including the cities of Columbus and Marysville, as well as improve the water quality of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers ultimately improving the hypoxic dead zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Bowling Green State University (Ohio) ($146,654) - This project will explore the technical feasibility and commercial viability of using an innovative multi-species aquaponics system to convert nutrients in agricultural drainage systems into marketable products (e.g., tilapia, bait crayfish, and crops) while reducing nutrient discharge to waterways in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Central State University (Ohio) (149,953) - In this project, CSU expects to apply the well-studied manure application practice in agriculture to hemp production and evaluate and demonstrate the soil health and water quality benefits while maximizing crop yield. The project findings will inform decision making involving manure application in hemp production and will communicate the outputs and outcomes of the project to licensed hemp growers in Ohio through field days and workshops.

Historical Conservation Innovation Grant Accomplishments

Sunny Meadows Flower Farm (Ohio) ($74,984) - This project will demonstrate a system developed for a small-scale sustainable farm to optimize greenhouse management for cut flower production, especially for winter growing in Ohio's challenging climate. Data will be evaluated during the strategic transition from a manual ventilation system to a more efficient automated, passive ventilation system with a focus on humidity, temperature, and moisture control. Through adoption of these holistic systems, and by using soil steam sterilization and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), growers can implement smart investments to scale while simultaneously decreasing the pressure from diseases and increasing plant and soil health. With a focus on soil and plant health and trying to grow organically, a plan will be created for others to follow, utilizing an automated ventilation system including ridge vents, a weather station, and humidity sensors. In addition, these methods decrease chemical inputs and improve plant resiliency and yields, while maintaining the profitability of farming operations.

Clermont SWCD (Ohio) ($66,015) - This project will develop and promote an innovative approach for planting cover crops through work with local producers to modify harvesting equipment to enable them to plant cover crops while harvesting. Using this innovative planting method and combined with other practices such as nutrient management and fertilizer application using variable rate technology, Clermont SWCD will share this technique through multiple field days, fact sheets, an interactive website and social media campaigns. Fields to be planted include an existing edge-of-field monitoring site and several with a long-term monitoring station. These, combined with other locations monitored by the East Fork Watershed Cooperative, will allow the project team to document nutrient load reductions resulting from the project.

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

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How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.