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News Release

NRCS Partners in California Receive $425,000 for Conservation Innovations

Jonathan Groveman (530) 792-5692; Alan Forkey (530) 792-5653

DAVIS, Calif., Sept. 12, 2013—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that six conservation organizations have been selected to receive a total of $425,000 through the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program in California. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers both a national and a state-level CIG program to fund the development of unique and innovative solutions that will make natural resources conservation more effective and efficient.

"These California grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving on California’s farms and ranches," said Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California. "The focus areas delve into new territories of conservation and we are really excited to be a part of the research."

This year puts an additional emphasis on biochar development and implementation on the land. The Sonoma Ecology Center and the Redwood Forest Foundation were approved for federal funds to demonstrate how biochar application in soil can aid in sequestering carbon, enhancing soil quality and health, improving water quality, and other benefits. Furthermore, the Redwood Forest Foundation’s project aims to address the removal of excess forestland brush and understory, which contributes to catastrophic wildfires, and converting it into biochar for agricultural purposes.

"We are thrilled to be able to bring the first biochar production unit into Sonoma County," said Dr. David Morell, Sonoma Ecology Center project manager. "The biochar we produce from local woody wastes will allow us to test its true impacts on agricultural productivity, soil health, and water conservation."

Other CIG grants awarded are as follows:

  • The Marin Resource Conservation District will work with select agricultural producers to assess how conservation practices can aid soil in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and improve water-holding capacity.
  • UC Berkeley will conduct an innovative, farmer-initiated project that will improve farming practices in harmony with local efforts to protect and increase native bee habitats.
  • The Vineyard Team organization will work with wine grape growers to assess soil moisture monitoring and weather tracking tools and techniques that aid farmers in conserving water resources.
  • The Alameda County Resource Conservation District will collaborate with UC Cooperative Extension and others to develop a set of conservation best practices to support small-scale hog farmers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern San Joaquin Valley. These best practices will draw on existing knowledge and expertise from hog producers and resource managers in the Southeast and across the United States.

NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. 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.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America's private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information on NRCS, visit