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News Release

USDA Announces More than $22 Million in Conservation Innovation

Madison, Wis. – June 8, 2017 The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced that the agency will award more than $22.6 million to drive public and private sector innovation in resource conservation.  The agency is investing in 33 projects nationwide through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which helps develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges. Public and private grantees - including non-governmental organizations, American Indian tribes, academic institutions and local government entities - will leverage the federal investment by at least matching it.

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program is an example of government at its best, providing seed money to help spur cutting-edge projects,” said NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan.  “This year’s competition resulted in an impressive array of proposals that will ultimately benefit the people who grow our food and fiber.”

The projects announced today focus on conservation finance and pay-for-success models to stimulate conservation adoption; data analytics for natural resources; water management technologies and approaches; and historically underserved farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners. The 2017 CIG awards bring the total NRCS investment to nearly $286.7 million for 711 projects since 2004.

Annually, about 10 percent of CIG funding is set aside to support efforts to benefit farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who historically have not had equal access to agricultural programs because of race or ethnicity; who have limited resources; who are military veterans interested in farming or ranching; or who are beginning farmers or ranchers.  Ten projects totaling $5,141,856 were selected in 2017 because they will benefit historically underserved agricultural producers and forest landowners.

With 2017 CIG funding, two projects will aid the state of Wisconsin:

(1) The Climate Trust (All U.S.) $900,000 Environmental Price Assurance Facility

The Climate Trust proposes to develop and launch the Environmental Price Assurance Facility to help mitigate risks associated with the future value of environmental credits. The Facility, by serving as a buyer-of-last-resort for credits, will increase certainty for investors and projects developers, helping spur implementation of agriculture and forestry conservation projects. Landowners will see increased income from additional investment by private capital in voluntary conservation projects

(2) Delta Institute (WI) $700,000 Financing Regenerative Agriculture: Innovative Mechanisms

The Delta Institute proposes to create innovative mechanisms to help investors operationalize and scale investments in regenerative agriculture, a system of holistic practices that promote soil health and restore ecosystem services while maintaining yield. The project will engage partners across sources of capital to address barriers to investing, strengthen the business case for investments, develop tools that will improve investor literacy and accelerate deal flow, and demonstrate its innovative approaches in a place-based example in Wisconsin.

Read and download the full list of this fiscal year’s selected projects.  Click here to view the list through an interactive map.

CIG is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The maximum grant is $2 million per project, and the length of time for project completion is three years. The CIG projects are designed to engage EQIP-eligible producers in on-the-ground conservation activities that speed up the transfer and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. The NRCS uses CIG to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns.

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