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News Release

NRCS Seeking Soil Health Proposals for 2021 Grant Projects

Debbie Bullock

  CIG FY21, three men, grass, soil

The Hanover-Caroline SWCD received one of the early soil health CIG grants to study the feasibility of multi-species cover crops in Central Virginia cropping systems.

Richmond, Va., April 22, 2021 – Return on investment is a key factor in most financial decisions and a big selling point for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs). These partnership projects have checked the box on that risk versus reward measurement for the past 10 years as top performers in accelerating evaluation and adoption of new approaches to natural resource protection.

CIGs allow USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to leverage partner resources to double our investment in field testing, evaluation and implementation of conservation technologies, practices and systems. In Virginia, cash or in-kind matches have translated a $2.5 million investment into nearly $5 million in innovative conservation activity statewide.

This year, NRCS is seeking proposals focused on research, demonstrations, outreach and educational initiatives to advance adoption of soil health management practices in Virginia. Projects should reflect a clear understanding of and alignment with state soil health issues and ultimately lead to greater implementation of one or more of these soil health principles: keep soil covered, minimize soil disturbance, maximize living roots and energize with diversity.

Preferred projects will focus on agronomic assessment of soil health/dynamic soil properties, integrated conservation agronomy (systems-level assimilation of soil health with one or more conservation-related disciplines) or both. These activities must also involve landowners who meet eligibility requirements for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“The state-level CIG program has been a pillar of our soil health promotion strategy since 2010,” says Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, NRCS state conservationist. “These grant funds have supported more than 26 in-state projects with Virginia Soil Health Coalition partners who are empowered to think out of the box to explore tools, technologies and strategies for next-generation conservation on working lands. We encourage our conservation partners to consider this opportunity and to assist us in promoting it in the state.”

Grants will be awarded for projects between one and three years’ duration with a maximum single award of $300,000. State and local units of government, non-governmental organizations, tribal organizations and individuals interested in applying for these competitive grants must submit proposals by 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time on June 18, 2021. Those selected will be notified by July 16, 2021.

The 2021 Virginia CIG Notice of Funding Opportunity (NFO) can be found here on and on the Virginia CIG web page. Application packages must be emailed to Virginia CIG Program Manager Debbie Bullock in PDF format at AND submitted electronically on

Interested partners can download the Virginia NRCS Soil Health Strategic Plan from the agency website at: More information on EQIP is available on the Virginia NRCS website. Contact state technical contact  Chris Lawrence to learn more about this CIG offering or the state’s strategic plan.