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News Release

USDA Awards Conservation Innovation Projects to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture and Soil Health

Release No.: 2021-11-001

USDA Awards Conservation Innovation Projects to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture and Soil Health 

PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 9, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today it is awarding $25 million to conservation partners across the country for 18 new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program, including three projects and $5,302,795 in Oregon.  

On-Farm Trials projects support widespread adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. This year’s awarded projects increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help agricultural producers mitigate the effects of climate change, increase the resilience of their operations and boost soil health.  

“Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners play a crucial role in charting the course towards a climate-smart future,” said Ron Alvarado, NRCS State Conservationist in Oregon. “On-Farm Trials enable partners to work with producers to test and adopt new climate-smart systems on their operations that support agricultural production and conserve natural resources, while also building climate resilience.”  

Awarded projects in Oregon include: 

Decision Support System for Irrigation with Limited Water
Irrigation for the Future
Lead State: CA; States Involved: CA, OR
Project summary: Irrigation for the Future will demonstrate an advanced decision support system (DSS) designed to calculate the productivity of water and optimize the economics of irrigation management field-by-field. The project will integrate the DSS with cooperating farms’ practices and workflows as a tool for strategic water use planning and economically optimal irrigation management. The project team will work with cooperating farms and the DSS to calibrate site-specific water production functions to develop and manage optimal full-season irrigation strategies with limited water and support participation in a local water market, manage pumping schedules to minimize energy costs, and evaluate alternative cropping patterns and water use strategies to align with future water supplies.

Stacking Climate-Smart Agriculture and Pollinator Conservation to Leverage Market-Based Incentives
Xerces Society Inc.
Lead State: CA; States Involved: CA, ME, MT, OR, WA
Project summary: Improving understanding of how pollinator conservation can further climate-smart agriculture overlap has the potential to accelerate both goals at the farm level. Working with at least 12 producers in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Maine, representing a variety of cropping systems and agricultural operation sizes, Xerces Society will demonstrate, evaluate, and quantify conservation practices designed to maximize these dual goals. The project will trial a combination of permanent woody biomass plantings along with temporary and permanent biomass plantings. These practices will be designed to meet criteria for pollinator value and climate-resilience benefits.

Inland Northwest Farmers Leading Our United Revolution In Soil Health (FLOURISH)
Palouse Conservation District
Lead State: WA; States Involved: WA, ID, OR
Project summary: Palouse Conservation District will work with crop producers of the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW) to demonstrate farming practices that build soil health and increase the resilience of dryland cropping systems. The overall goal of this project is to support widespread adoption of soil health management systems (SHMS)−specifically cover cropping, interseeding, and cover crop-livestock integration. This project will create a formal, farmer-led group dedicated to demonstrating SHMS that incorporate cover crops and livestock integration with cover crops on a regional scale and disseminate findings to peers, agricultural professionals, and the public.

For details on all the awarded projects, visit the NRCS website.  

About CIG On-Farm Trials  

On-Farm Trials projects feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches.   

The Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHD) component of On-Farm Trials focuses exclusively on conservation practices implementation and systems that improve soil health.   

Three of the four funding priorities support the wider adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and systems:  climate-smart agricultural solutions; irrigation management technologies; and the practices/systems to build soil carbon through the SHD.   

A critical element of each On-Farm Trials project is the project evaluation. Partners must propose robust scientific approaches to their On-Farm Trials, resulting in data and analyses of the environmental, financial and (to the extent possible) social impacts of the trials.   

Sixteen of the awarded projects outlined a plan to substantively include and benefit historically underserved producers. 

NRCS intends to use the results of On-Farm Trials project evaluations and analyses to explore the development of new NRCS business practices, guidance documents, technical tools and conservation practice standards or modifications to existing ones.  

For more information about the Conservation Innovation Grants program, visit the NRCS website

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