USDA seeks conservation grant applications |

USDA seeks conservation grant applications

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for up to $20 million to create new markets for carbon credits that would lead to 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,” 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, USDA said, noting that CIG has helped fund the development of the basic infrastructure of these markets.

“This year 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,” USDA said. “Improved quantification tools, multi-resource crediting, and projects that substantively engage corporate or financial partners are the types of activities NRCS is pursuing.”

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 previous years, NRCS will accept pre-proposals for initial review before inviting entities to submit full proposals. Pre-proposals are due Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015.

–The Hagstrom Report

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