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News Release

USDA Awards Funds to Improve Conservation on Agricultural Lands - Two Arkansas Entities Receive Grants

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation. Grant recipients will demonstrate innovative approaches to improve soil health, conserve energy, manage nutrients and enhance wildlife habitat in balance with productive agricultural systems. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers this competitive grants program.

Two Arkansas entities were selected for grants and Arkansas is part of a third grant with seven other states. They are:

  • Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation (Brinkley, Ark.): A grant of $453,570 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 project aims to help 300 limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and landowners develop and adopt a plan to conserve soil and water resources and to reduce, control and trap nutrient runoff.
  • White River Irrigation District (Hazen, Ark.): A grant of $663,500 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.
  • Bat Conservation International, Inc.: A grant of $139,495 to bring bat conservation technologies, skills and knowledge to partners and producers, simultaneously improving outcomes for pollinating and pest-consuming bat species in the United States with specific benefits to agricultural production. Comprehensive outreach will be conducted in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas with a collection of sound, tested, innovative bat conservation best practices for wind energy development, biofuel crop production, mine/well closures, wildlife habitat monitoring, water for wildlife, and integrated pest management.

"Conservation Innovation Grants activate creativity and problem-solving to benefit conservation-minded farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "These grants are critical for developing and demonstrating new ideas for conservation on America’s private lands and strengthening rural communities. Everyone relies on our nation’s natural resources for food, fiber, and clean water and will benefit from these grants."

"The Conservation Innovation Grant program brings together the strength and innovation of the private and non-profit sectors, academia, producers, and others to develop and test cutting-edge conservation tools and technologies and work side-by-side with producers to demonstrate how solutions work on the land," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said.

"Conservation grants allow the best minds in America to develop unique and innovative solutions that will help make conservation more efficient in the future," said Mike Sullivan, Arkansas state conservationist. "It is an honor for two Arkansas entities to receive these grants to pursue these important endeavors."

The 33 national awards total $13.3 million. A full list of recipients is available here:

The grants are funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Grantees must work with producers and forestland owners to develop and demonstrate the new 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.

NRCS has offered this grant program since 2004, investing in ways to demonstrate and transfer efficient and environmentally friendly farming and ranching. In the past nine years, the grants have helped develop trading markets for water quality and have shown how farmers and ranchers may use fertilizer, water and energy more efficiently.

Secretary Vilsack said today’s announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs to rural America. A comprehensive five-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy, Vilsack added, saying that is just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Bill done as soon as possible.

For more on this grant program, visit the Conservation Innovation Grants webpage or contact your local NRCS office. To locate a local field office, visit