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News Release

New Jersey Group Awarded USDA Grant to Improve Conservation on Agricultural Lands

Barbara Phillips, Public Affairs Specialist

September 12, 2013 – This week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants awarded to entities 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. Cape Atlantic Conservation District was among the grant recipients, awarded $91,705 for their proposal “Expanding Pollinator Species Habitat Sites Utilizing Compost Filter Socks.”

New Jersey State Conservationist for NRCS Carrie Mosley said, “We are really glad to have a state applicant succeed in the national competition. I have no doubt that this Cape Atlantic Conservation District project will benefit the New Jersey environment by establishing and enhancing pollinator habitat while preventing erosion.”

David Reilly, District Manager for Cape Atlantic Conservation District said, “The District was quite pleased that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service accepted our proposal. We are excited about working with producers and landowners in a way that we have not been able to in the past. This project will allow conservation planners an alternative to the traditonal methods of establishing pollinator habitat adjacent to crop production areas. Installation procedures will address soil health issues as well. The technology can also be adapted to areas on school sites, parks, roadsides and other open spaces where establishment of pollinator habitat is desirable. Its linear or curvilinear application makes it the perfect fit anywhere."

Cape Atlantic Conservation District will address the decline of pollinator species such as the honeybee that can have far reaching impacts on plant pollination and crop production. Often, farmers have a difficult time finding a plot of land on their farm suitable for creation of pollinator habitat without losing valuable agricultural production land. The time and energy cost it takes to prepare a field to plant a wildflower seed mix can also be prohibitive. The Cape Atlantic Conservation District plans will expand or enhance pollinator species habitat areas by taking the technology of establishing a grass cover with vegetated compost filter socks and adapting it to establish on-farm pollinator habitat areas with native wildflowers.

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. A full list of recipients of the national grants is available online.

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.

For more on this grant program, visit USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants webpage or contact your local NRCS office.