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$20 million in USDA conservation grants available in 2007
By LINDA McGURK
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The USDA recently announced a new round of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), a program designed to promote innovative technologies and new approaches to resource conservation.

For fiscal year 2007, $20 million is available in three conservation categories. Up to $10 million is up for grabs in the natural resources concerns category, $5 million is offered in the technology category and another $5 million is available for projects addressing natural resource concerns in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

In the Corn Belt, a significant chunk of the grant money will likely be applied to improving agricultural practices.

“Farmers are our principal customers. We want their production to remain high, while our natural resources are enhanced,” said Mike McGovern, spokesperson for the Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA unit that administers the grants.

Developing new techniques to preserve water quality, combat soil erosion and improve nutrient-management practices at large livestock operations are some of the top priorities in Indiana, according to McGovern.

The CIG program was created to reward those who come up with practical solutions to natural resource concerns on a local, regional or national level, and it supports pilot studies and conservation field trials that may last from one to three years.

The program is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the recipients of the grants are required to come up with a 50 percent match of the total project cost. Individuals, organizations and tribes from all 50 states are encouraged to apply. While most of the grant applications likely will come from universities and agricultural corporations rather than individual farmers, farming cooperatives and small farming operations have received grants in the past.

But the biggest benefit to farmers will come from the knowledge generated from the program, McGovern said, and compared it to a seeding operation.

“It’s the same process,” he said. “First you’ve got to find the right seeds and then you plant them on a broad scale.”

If a grant-funded project is deemed successful, it will get written into NRCS’ conservation program and will then be applied to farming operations both on state and multi-state levels.

Last year, Purdue University received two grants to conduct research on the use of biofuels for seasonal drying processes and watershed management practices for sediment, nutrient and pesticide control. Indiana and several other states were also involved in a project that established more efficient procedures for the carbon credit generation program on the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The deadline to apply for CIG is February 2, 2007. For more information on the program, go to: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig

This farm news was published in the Jan. 3, 2007 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

1/3/2007