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News Release

USDA Awards Funds for Innovation in Conservation

Wade Biddix

Virginia Receives National and State Funds to Improve Conservation on Private Lands

Richmond, VA, September 16, 2013 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced that three Virginia entities are among the latest round of recipients for the NRCS National Conservation Innovation Grants Program (CIG). Virginia Tech, Pheasants Forever, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will receive over $2.2 million to demonstrate innovative approaches to improving soil health, managing nutrients and enhancing wildlife habitat as part of a productive agricultural system.

USDA awarded a total of $25 million to 33 entities across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation. The grants, which are funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, assist grantees in working with producers who wish to develop and test new conservation technologies and approaches. At least 50 percent of the total cost of CIG projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including cash and in-kind contributions provided by the grant recipient.

“Conservation Innovation Grants help spur creativity and problem-solving on our nation’s farms, ranches and forests,” said Jack Bricker, State Conservationist for NRCS in Virginia. “These grants are critical to encouraging new ideas for conservation on America’s private lands and to strengthening rural communities. We are glad that these groups can help in USDA’s efforts to advance agriculture and to protect our natural resources.”

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (VA, MD, PA, DE, NY) - $821,384

  • Public and private sectors will join with partners and producers to advance the use of manure injection technology in high-density animal production regions of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to improve water quality.

Pheasants Forever, Inc. (VA) - $631,218

  • To address the decline in pollinator populations, this project will compare the value of planting pollinator habitat along un-harvested field edges versus integrating them in fields harvested for energy production.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA, MD, DE) - $748,648

  • Producers on the Atlantic Coastal Plain will be encouraged to control nutrient loss with comprehensive drainage/ditch management systems that trap sediment and nutrients from artificially drained agricultural lands.

Additionally, NRCS has approved seven CIG projects at the state level totaling more than $406,000. “This is the largest amount of CIG funds ever to be awarded in Virginia – both in number of awards and dollar amount,” says Bricker.

Five of the CIG proposals deal with improving soil health on Virginia farmland to increase productivity, profitability and the positive environmental impact of agriculture. The other two proposals will demonstrate the use of silvopasture techniques for grazing and evaluate the impact of yield loss along field edges in summer and winter grain crops.

  • American Farmland Trust - $75,000
    Improving Soil Biology and Adjusting Seasonal Nitrogen Rates: Soil Health and Wallet Wealth in the Shenandoah Valley
  • Appalachian Sustainable Development - $32,913
    Strip Tilling Vegetables to Boost Soil Organic Matter, Farmland Conservation and Grower Productivity
  • Colonial Soil & Water Conservation District - $12,350
    Farming on the Edge: Evaluation of the edge of field effect in grain cropping systems and demonstration of alternative field border BMPs
  • Piedmont Environment Council - $62,276
    Improved Soil Health through Livestock and Pasture Diversity: a Farm Demonstration
  • Virginia Forage and Grassland Council - $75,000
    Soil Health and Grazing Management: Putting Science into Practice
  • Virginia Tech - $75,000
    Establishing and Managing Pine and Hardwood Silvopastures in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States
  • Virginia Tech - $74,102
    Healthy Farms from the Soil Up: Finding Common Ground

NRCS has offered this grant program since 2004, investing in ways to demonstrate and transfer efficient and environmentally friendly farming practices. In the past nine years, these grants have shown farmers how to use technologies to utilize fertilizer, water and energy more efficiently.

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