Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) are competitive grants that drive public and private sector innovation in resource conservation. Authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, CIG uses Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, American Indian Tribes, or individuals. Producers involved in CIG funded projects must be EQIP eligible.
Through the NRCS CIG program, public and private grantees develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges. Grantees leverage the federal investment by at least matching it.
NRCS understands the importance of supporting historically underserved, new and beginning and military veteran producers in farming and ranching. These producers are a part of the fabric of American agriculture and our communities. Annually, a portion of CIG funding is set aside for projects that support these producers.
CIG projects inspire creative problem-solving that boosts production on farms, ranches, and private forests - ultimately they improve water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat.
***On July 26, 2018, NRCS announced $10.6 million awarded to 22 projects nationally through its 2018 CIG competition. This year CIG focused on soil health, grazing lands, and organic agriculture.***
A CIG funding notice is announced each year. Funds for single or multi-year projects, not to exceed three years, are awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process. Projects may be watershed-based, regional, multi-state or nationwide in scope. The natural resource concerns eligible for funding through CIG are identified in the funding announcement and may change annually to focus on new and emerging, high priority natural resource concerns.
In addition to the nationwide grants competition, the State component of CIG is available in select States each year. The State component emphasizes projects that have a goal of providing benefits within a limited geographic area. Projects may be farm-based, multi-county, small watershed, or Statewide in scope. For additional information about State CIG competitions, please contact Cheryl Rice or search for the latest postings at Grants.gov.
Potential applicants should review program funding that is available on www.grants.gov. During open application periods, applications for CIG projects must be submitted through Grants.gov and with a PDF file emailed to Cheryl Rice.
Active Ohio Conservation Innovation Grants
National CIG - Soil Health
American Farmland Trust (CA, IL, OH, NY, VA) ($509,533) - proposes to accelerate adoption of Soil Health Management Systems (SHMS) on land that farmers own and land they rent by: 1) quantifying the economic, soil health, water quality, and greenhouse gas outcomes experienced by farmers who have successfully adopted SHMS, 2) publishing those findings in short, compelling case studies, 3) sharing the case studies with farmers and landowners who are curious about implementing SHMS, and 4) providing tailored technical and financial assistance that may be needed to adopt and successfully maintain SHMS.
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PA, OH) ($200,326.50) - proposes to empower citizen-science farmers with the tools and support to assess their soil health, set management goals, and track progress. This project pursues three innovative ideas for generating improvements in soil health: 1) a citizen-science approach to monitor community progress and draw insights from the practices of soil health leaders, 2) development of open-source farm management software to facilitate data collection on working farms, and 3) outcome-based marketing that educates consumers on the importance of soil health and adds value to the businesses of farmers practicing excellent soil stewardship.
Practical Farmers of Iowa (IL, IN, IA, MN, OH, WI) ($1,039,158.86) - proposes to increase demand for small grains as animal feed and cover crop seed to provide crucial secondary markets needed for farmers to increase small grain acres in the Corn Belt. The project proposes to connect food companies’ desire for increasing sustainability of their supply chains with farmer desire to grow extended rotations that include small grains. Food companies will collaborate to create market solutions to increase demand and production of small grains for animal feed and cover crop seed, positively impacting water quality, soil health and greenhouse gas emissions.
National CIG - Water Quality Credit Trading
Conservation Marketplace Midwest ($243,933)—proposes to develop and pilot a Field Stewards program, an innovative conservation credit system designed to allow companies in the food industry to buy “offsets” for water quality and agricultural conservation. Through the purchase of certification credits, food companies can demonstrate sustainability to their customers without having to create a new chain-of-custody supply chain for agricultural commodities, keeping costs low for retailers and the consumer.
Electric Power Research Institute ($300,000)—proposes to develop and execute, for the first time, trades of “stacked” ecosystem services for water quality and greenhouse gas emissions reduction credits. EPRI administers the Ohio River Basin nutrient trading program – the only multi-state trading program in the country.
Great Lakes Commission ($400,000)— substantial water quality issues plague the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB), leading to harmful algal blooms each summer in Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Commission proposes to develop a framework for water quality trading in the WLEB.
Heidelberg University ($591,655) - proposes to improve soil health and reduce nutrient and sediment exports from agricultural farms by using edge-of-field studies of best management practices to calibrate and verify existing tools that estimate farm yield and nutrient loss.
Corn Growers ($2,000,000) - This project will integrate recent advancements in precision agriculture data platforms, designed to help growers optimize farm enterprise profitability, reduce greenhouse gases and improve water quality into an advanced decision system support tool and framework that enables carbon “insetting.”