USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Accepting Applications for National Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) – Due June 29, 2020

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is accepting applications for the National Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program that will provide from $150,000 to $2 million per project to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies as detailed below.

What is the purpose of CIG? The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) to agricultural producers, into NRCS technical manuals and guides, or to the private sector. CIG generally funds pilot projects, field demonstrations, and on-farm conservation research. On-farm conservation research is defined as an investigation conducted to answer a specific applied conservation question using a statistically valid design while employing farm-scale equipment on farms, ranches or private forest lands.

CIG funds the development and field testing, on-farm research and demonstration, evaluation, or implementation of:

  • Approaches to incentivizing conservation adoption, including market-based and conservation finance approaches; and
  • Conservation technologies, practices, and systems.

Projects or activities under CIG must:

  • Comply with all applicable federal, tribal, state, and local laws and regulations throughout the duration of the project; and
  • Use a technology or approach that was studied sufficiently to indicate a high probability for success;
  • Demonstrate, evaluate, and verify the effectiveness, utility, affordability, and usability of natural resource conservation technologies and approaches in the field;
  • Adapt and transfer conservation technologies, management, practices, systems, approaches, and incentive systems to improve performance and encourage adoption;
  • Introduce proven conservation technologies and approaches to a geographic area or agricultural sector where that technology or approach is not currently in use.

Technologies and approaches that are eligible for funding in a project’s geographic area using an EQIP contract for an established conservation practice standard are ineligible for CIG funding, except where the use of those technologies and approaches demonstrates clear innovation.

Who is eligible to apply? All non-Federal entities and individuals are eligible to apply (state and local government entities, tribal entities, non-governmental organizations, individuals). All CIG projects must involve EQIP-eligible producers. Individuals and entities may submit more than one application and may receive more than one award.

What are CIG Priorities for FY 2020? This year’s priorities are water reuse, water quality, air quality, energy and wildlife habitat. Applicants must address one or more of the following subpriorities under the chosen priority area.

Water quality 

  • Watershed assessment methods that inform county and local level siting of projects to efficiently reduce pollutant loss from farm fields and maximize in-stream load reduction potential.
  • Approaches that optimize conservation systems while minimizing dissolved reactive phosphorus and nitrogen that contribute to the formation of algal blooms.
  • Cost-effective sensor technologies for edge-of-field monitoring of water quality conservation practices.
  • Conservation approaches that reduce the loss of pesticides from the farm or ranch operation through leaching, runoff, and airborne volatilization.
  • Advanced agricultural techniques to monitor, identify, and target pests, using GPS, drone, enhanced imagery, robotic, and other emerging technologies.
  • Technologies or approaches that reduce the severity and extent of salinity through groundwater recharge management, irrigation water management, and drainage water management.
  • Dairy and livestock manure management approaches to protect water quality.
  • Approaches to achieve nutrient load reduction targets by increasing effective nutrient assimilation in the streams and wetlands, encouraging floodplain deposition of silt and sediment, reducing stream bank erosion, and reducing overall discharge (volume).

Water Reuse 

  • Technologies or approaches to measuring nitrates in tailwater recovery ponds prior to use as irrigation water, with an emphasis on reducing nitrogen applications by some percentage of the nitrates in the water (50–75%) without impacting production and yield.
  • Demonstrate innovative methods for reducing potential salinity problems associated with water reuse, which may include reducing the amount of irrigation water applied to crops, and reusing the applied water on subsequent, more salt-tolerant crops.
  • Demonstrate innovative ways to incorporate reused water into irrigation schedules to enhance the volume and reliability of irrigation.
  • Demonstration of practices that can reduce pathogen transmission during crop irrigation with recycled water.

Wildlife

  • Develop a multi-scale assessment tool to identify regional priority areas that informs site-specific conservation planning decisions.
  • Develop tools to predict or estimate the response of wildlife populations to implementation of conservation programs, practices and systems.
  • Develop innovative technologies, practices, and approaches that improve the management of terrestrial habitat for wildlife and invertebrates, aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms as well as the associated natural resources upon which they depend while sustaining or improving agricultural productivity.

Air Quality

  • Demonstrate and evaluate innovative strategies and/or technologies for mitigating one or more of the following agricultural air emissions: directly emitted particulate matter, ammonia, oxides of nitrogen and nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds, odorous sulfur compounds, methane, nitrous oxide, and/or carbon dioxide.
  • Develop and demonstrate innovative air quality assessment methodologies and procedures for identifying air quality issues and solutions related to animal and/or crop production systems, forestlands, pasturelands, and rangelands.

Energy Conservation

  • Use energy benchmark or energy use index (EUI) data to assess baseline conditions, initiate appropriate conservation practices, and evaluate results.
  • Incorporate a prescriptive list, rebates, or other protocols to streamline adoption of energy conservation practices.
  • Incorporate energy efficiency practices common in other sectors but have been infrequently adopted by agricultural producers in one or more enterprises (e.g., use of adjustable speed drives in poultry broiler houses, radio frequency, and dehumidification or other drying devices).
  • Use real-time energy data to evaluate possible energy conservation practices and assess performance of implemented projects to refine standard analysis methods.
  • Develop methods to assist producers to identify and implement conservation practices based on improved energy efficiency, use of renewable resources to meet onsite energy needs, or combinations thereof.

What are the funding levels? A total of up to $15 million in funding will be available for national projects. The funding minimum for a single award is $150,000 and the maximum for a single award is $2 million.

Is there a cost sharing/matching requirement? CIG recipients must provide a non-federal funding match or cost-share amount at least equal to the amount of federal funding requested. Cost sharing may be achieved with contributions of cash, services, materials, equipment, or third party in-kind contributions.

What is the project duration? Projects may be between one and three years in duration.

The full Notice of Funding Opportunity is here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at grants@morrisonco.net or call us at 530-893-4764.

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