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News Release

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

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. (Nov. 8, 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 in Washington.  

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 Terry Cosby, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “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.”

Washingtonians are leading two of the projects, and are heavily involved in a third. The three projects total more than $5.1 million in funding, which accounts for more than one-fifth of the total awarded nationally.

"I am not surprised at all to see this level of commitment to Climate Smart Agriculture, historically underserved producers, and soil health," said Roylene Comes At Night, NRCS-Washington State Conservationist. "Assisting our partners in meeting their conservation goals is one of our primary responsibilities and privileges."

The three nationally-awarded projects in Washington are:

Inland Northwest Farmers Leading Our United Revolution In Soil Health (FLOURISH)
Palouse Conservation District
Lead State: Washington
States Involved: Washington, Idaho and Oregon
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.

From Farmers to Soil Health Managers - Participatory Design of On-Farm Trials to Stimulate Adoption of Innovative Conservation Techniques by Historically Underserved Farmers in the Puget Sound Region
Grow Food
Lead State: Washington
States Involved: Washington
Grow Food will engage historically underserved farmers to conduct trials of innovative Soil Health Management Systems (SHMS) techniques and demonstrate the benefits of adopting SHMS through environmental, social and economic evaluation of the on-farm trials. The project will build capacity for farmers to understand changes in soil health through the participatory design of on-farm trial, develop a regional network of soil health management practitioners and disseminate project results and lessons learned.

Stacking Climate-Smart Agriculture and Pollinator Conservation to Leverage Market-Based Incentives
Xerces Society Inc.
Lead State: California
States Involved: California, Maine, Montana, Oregon, and Washington
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.

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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