Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $25 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) awarded to 58 entities across the nation for projects that test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands. Indiana was home to three in-state recipients and four multi-state projects, which will demonstrate innovative approaches to improving soil health, increasing pollinator and wildlife habitat, addressing livestock manure management, producing on-farm energy savings and fostering water quality trading markets. Grant recipients pay 50 percent of all project costs.
Awardees in Indiana include Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Purdue University and the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Multi-state recipients include the Xerces Society, American Farmland Trust, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., and North Carolina State University.
“Conservation Innovation Grants will help spur creativity and problem-solving on our farms and forests,” said Kimberly Neumann, Acting State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “I’m especially pleased to see innovative projects funded in Indiana with a focus on managing for soil health, which increases both production and conservation benefits.”
The grants will be used to implement the following projects in Indiana.
- Kosciusko County SWCD will implement cover crops with a focus of monitoring nitrogen management at the watershed level and improving soil health.
- Purdue University will focus on demonstrating the effectiveness of field management systems to maximize the uptake of swine manure after wheat, to optimize the release of nutrients for the subsequent corn crop and to reduce environmental implications of swine manure applications.
- The Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts will integrate long-term continuous no-till/strip-till, cover crops, precision technology, nutrient management and pest management practices into productive, profitable and sustainable systems focused on soil health.
- The Xerces Society will develop a long-term operations and maintenance guidance for established pollinator habitats.
New this year was a special emphasis on water quality trading markets to demonstrating how farmers and ranchers can help municipalities and other point sources overcome high pollution control costs. Twelve entities received grant funds for this purpose, including three multi-state projects in Indiana: the American Farmland Trust, Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. and North Carolina State University.
“We believe there are states around the nation that are on the cusp of having thriving water quality trading markets,” Vilsack said. “These grant awards will help develop projects that involve farmers and ranchers while they are helping to improve water quality.”
In a water quality trading program, point sources buy environmental benefits or “credits” from landowners who install specific conservation practices. Water quality trading is a market-based approach that enables facilities to achieve needed pollution controls through the purchase of credits for a particular pollutant. Farmers can produce water quality credits by implementing conservation practices that reduce nutrients or sediment losses, and generally at a much lower cost than a municipal treatment facility. The goal is to achieve water quality improvements more cost-effectively by bringing together willing buying and sellers.
NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues.
For a complete list of CIG awardees and more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov.