Conservation Innovation Grant Pre-Proposals Deadline Approaches

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announced TODAY that April 10, 2015, will be the deadline to submit project pre-proposals for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) this fiscal year. Up to $375,000 is available for the California statewide CIG competition.

CIG is a voluntary program to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. The program leverages federal investment in methods that enhance the environment while also sustaining agricultural production. CIG enables NRCS to work with public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising approaches to address pressing natural resource concerns.

In fiscal year 2015, NRCS California is requesting CIG project pre-proposals that focus on one or more of the following natural resource issues: water quality/quantity; air quality and climate change; energy conservation; waste recycling; and wildlife habitat. The CIG detailed proposal announcement and project requirements can be found at www.grants.gov, the California NRCS Programs webpage, or by contacting Erik Beardsley at Erik.Beardsley@ca.usda.gov or (530) 792-5649.

Grants to eligible entities and individuals may not exceed $75,000. Funds will be awarded through a statewide competitive grants process. Eligible applicants include eligible state and local government, nongovernment organizations, eligible private business or individuals for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between one and three years in duration.

Applications for this pre-proposal phase must be received by NRCS before 4:30 p.m. on April 10. NRCS will announce selected pre-proposal applications by May 1. Selected applicants will then be required to submit a full proposal package to NRCS before 4:30 p.m. on June 5.

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.

USDA Seeks Applications for Conservation Innovation Grants

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that applications are being accepted for up to $20 million in grants to facilitate the creation of new, innovative markets for carbon credits, providing additional revenue sources for producers to use to address natural resource conservation challenges. These grants are part of the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

“USDA has been a leader in supporting market-based solutions to improve water quality and reduce carbon pollution,” Secretary Vilsack said. “With this opportunity, we are supporting the next generation of projects that will help mature these markets and bring them to scale to benefit both producers and the environment.”

For 2015, approximately half of the $20 million is available for environmental markets and conservation finance projects that engage agricultural producers. In past years, CIG has helped fund the development of the basic infrastructure of these markets. This year, USDA, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for projects that will build on these efforts by maturing and scaling markets and accelerating efforts to leverage private capital and investment in private lands conservation. Improved quantification tools, multi-resource crediting, and projects that substantively engage corporate or financial partners are the types of activities NRCS is pursuing.

As an example, USDA, though CIG, helped fund the development of the first interstate water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin. Administered by the Electric Power Research Institute, in April, the program is holding its first public auction of water quality credits, generated by farmers in the basin. USDA also funded a project led by the Delta Institute that culminated in the generation and sale of nitrous oxide credits on corn fields in the Midwest. This project demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced on cropland while maintaining corn yields.

USDA is also soliciting proposals for projects to stimulate natural resource improvements, including, but not limited to, improvements in water quantity, soil health, and wildlife habitat. Applications from this funding pool may also emphasize expected benefits to historically underserved producers, veterans, and organic producers. Applications in the fields of economics and sociology as they relate to natural resources are also being welcomed.

Under CIG, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals. The 2014 Farm Bill also included language that has led to some changes in this year’s CIG funding announcement. One change eliminates the requirement that half the applicant’s match be in cash. Another expands eligibility for the 10 percent set-aside provision for historically underserved producers.

As in prior years, NRCS will accept pre-proposals for initial review before inviting entities to submit full proposals. Pre-proposals are due Tuesday, February 24, 2015. To apply electronically, visit http://www.grants.gov or contact a local NRCS office.