Conservation Innovation Grant program awards $40 million to agriculture projects.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

April 7, 2023

2 Min Read
USDA announces new climate-smart grants
DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Getty Images

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA will be investing $40 million in 31 projects funded through the Conservation Innovation Grant program. These projects were chosen because of their potential to spur innovative approaches to climate-smart agriculture.

Vilsack also announced USDA would be investing $19 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program for two projects focused on nutrient management.

The news came during the Secretary’s visit to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. During the trip, he aimed to highlight the development of new technologies and systems that bolster conservation and production across the country. According to him, these latest grants reflect the goals of President Biden’s agenda to rebuild the economy from the bottom-up and middle-out, unleashing an innovation boom that is made in America.

“Addressing climate change is a tremendous challenge, but agriculture plays an important role, and we’re grateful for our many partners who are helping us confront the challenge head on,” Vilsack says. “These new projects and agreements are working to mitigate climate change, conserve and protect our water, enhance soil health and create economic opportunities for producers.”

Among the 31 CIG grants are 14 on-farm trials projects, two of which are based in Iowa. Iowa State University of Science and Technology will demonstrate a relay intercropping system. This system will promote a more diversified and stable community of soil organisms while also suppressing pathogens and pests.

The Iowa Soybean Association will promote the adoption of new synthesized cropping systems that are expected to increase profitability, reduce nutrient losses and improve soil health.

Family Farms LLC is one of the two partners awarded an RCPP Nutrient Management Grant. Its project incorporates the addition of biochar to help conserve nutrients by enhancing nutrient efficiency. This is expected to improve soil health and reduce the amount of nutrients applied to and lost from cropland in the Mississippi River Basin

The Environmental Initiative, Inc. will utilize interconnected networks of geographically close farms to move and balance nutrient needs, mitigating runoff adversely affecting the watershed. These networks are known and “nutrientsheds”. Both “nutrientsheds” in the project will obtain nutrient management plans so that manure at participating farms can be collected and processed through the partners’ centralized thermophilic anaerobic digesters.

“We’re empowering our partners to develop new tools, technologies and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop cost-effective solutions to resource challenges,” Vilsack says.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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