USDA seeks applications for grants to help farmers improve rural environmental quality and energy efficiency

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is seeking proposals for grants to improve water quality, air quality and promote energy conservation. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available $25 million through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program to address natural resource concerns nationwide with a special emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Mississippi River Basin.

“The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring private lands are conserved, restored, and more resilient to environmental challenges, like climate change,” Vilsack said. “USDA is seeking grant applications from farmers, ranchers and our conservation partners to solve America’s natural resource challenges.”

Now in its eighth year, the CIG program offers funding dedicated to the adoption of technologies to address a broad range of agricultural issues. For example, the Michigan Department of Agriculture worked with Michigan State University and agricultural landowners to establish conservation practices for high-risk erosion areas, with a goal of reducing sediment and nutrient runoff.  Also, Coaltec Energy USA, Inc. demonstrated that energy can be extracted from chicken litter to heat poultry houses.  Working with agricultural partners, the firm installed a gasification system on a West Virginia farm that uses poultry litter as fuel.  The system significantly reduced fuel costs for the producer.

Successful applicants will demonstrate that their projects use innovative, on-the-ground conservation approaches and technologies.  Funds will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process with applications being accepted from all 50 States, the Caribbean Area (the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).  Applications will be accepted from all eligible individuals, non-federal governments and non-governmental organizations, including federally recognized tribes and private businesses.

This year, a two-phase competitive process will be implemented.  In phase one, all applicants will be required to submit a pre-proposal; in phase two, only those applicants selected during the pre-proposal phase will be asked to submit a full application package. All proposed CIG projects must involve producers who are eligible for NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which offers financial and technical assistance to help producers implement conservation practices on agricultural land.

The federal contribution for a single project cannot exceed $1 million. At least 50 percent of the total cost of the project must come from non-federal matching funds (cash and in-kind contributions) provided by the grantee.  Grants are available for single or multi-year projects, not to exceed 3 years. Proposed projects must comply with the description of innovative conservation projects or activities established in the Announcement for Program Funding (APF).

Pre-proposal applications must be received at the NRCS National Headquarters by close of business December 28, 2010. To view the complete APF, visit To apply electronically, visit: For more information about NRCS conservation programs, visit:, or your local USDA office.

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