USDA Seeks Applications for $25 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants Funding is available in six focus areas, including data analytics tools and precision conservationAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is seeking new proposals for cutting-edge projects that will provide new conservation opportunities through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the department will invest up to $25 million for projects that spark the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches in areas like conservation finance, data analytics, and precision conservation to benefit producers on private agricultural and forest lands. "Conservation Innovation Grants have played a critical role in developing and implementing creative new methods to conserve the nation's private agricultural lands and strengthening rural communities," said Vilsack. "Today's announcement builds on our support of technologies and approaches that help producers increase resiliency to extreme weather such as drought and floods." CIG is authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and fosters innovative conservation projects that accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies that benefit natural resources, agricultural production and forest management. The 2017 focus areas for project proposals include the following:
- Innovative approaches that benefit historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers and those with limited resources;
- Natural resources data analytics tools—such as software and mobile apps—that increase producer knowledge of conservation benefits and alternatives;
- Precision conservation tools that uncover opportunities for better input management (for example, nutrient management addressing source, timing, rate and placement), or address in-field vulnerabilities;
- Conservation finance approaches that demonstrate the potential for new investment strategies to accelerate and expand private lands conservation;
- Demonstration, evaluation and quantification of the effects of water management and soil health practices to minimize off-site impacts of natural resource challenges, such as excess sediment and nutrient runoff;
- Pay-for-success models that stimulate conservation adoption and achievement of measurable outcomes.
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