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Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG)

Grants to USA Nonprofits, For-Profits Agencies,
and Individuals for Conservation in Agriculture

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

02/26/18 5:00 PM EST Receipt


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Grants to USA and territories nonprofits, for-profits, non-federal agencies, tribes, and individuals to promote the adoption and development of innovative technologies and approaches in conservation in conjunction with agriculture. Supported project have addressed a broad range of resource concerns, including irrigation efficiency, soil health, wildlife and pollinator habitat, water and air quality, greenhouse gas markets, on-farm energy use and conservation finance.

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.

Innovative Conservation Projects or Activities:

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
-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:
-Make use of a technology or approach that has been 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.

National Component:

For FY 2018, NRCS accepts proposals that address one or more of the national priorities listed below. Proposals must explicitly state which priority(ies) and sub-prority(ies) are being addressed. The three 2018 priorities are unlikely to be selected as priorities in FY 2019.

Up to 20 percent of the total funds available for CIG in FY 2018 is set aside for proposals from Historically Underserved producers, veteran farmers or ranchers, or community-based organizations comprised of or representing these entities (click here for more information about the 20 percent set-aside).

CIG Priorities for FY 2018:

1) Grazinglands

Grazing System Evaluation and Analysis:

NRCS promotes a conservation standard for grazing management that includes evaluating whether a grazing strategy or grazing management decisions meet natural resource objectives on rangeland, pastureland and/or grazed forestland. Monitoring, evaluation, and analysis is often difficult to establish even after significant investment in practices (such as fencing, water development or seeding and brush management). NRCS is seeking proposals that help livestock producers establish, obtain, maintain, and evaluate on-site data at the farm and ranch scale that quantify effects of their grazing management decisions, systems, and strategies. Projects must:

-Demonstrate and evaluate techniques, approaches, or incentives that encourage adoption of science-sound grazing land inventory and monitoring programs.
-Demonstrate how grazing land monitoring programs lead to grazing strategy evaluations that influence adaptive grazing management decisions to address natural resource goals and objectives. This includes stocking rate decisions, drought management, and other mitigation plans that address wildfire, wet conditions, and other events. Monitoring programs should evaluate grazing management effectiveness, as well as explain why it is effective.

Methodologies for demonstrations may include case studies, surveys, and results from cooperatives. Projects can include existing tools and technology or the development of new ones that support the following project requirements:

-Decision support tools and guidelines that inform adaptive grazing management decisions, especially during critical events and seasons. The tools and technology should include comprehensive approaches for implementing dynamic stocking rate determinations. These tools and technologies must be able to be incorporated into management plans and monitored by landowners.
-Development of new tools and technology with guidelines that estimate actual forage utilization or grazing intensity allowing this information to be integrated into an adaptive management framework that emphasizes and supports flexible grazing management.
-Development and refinement of innovative remote sensing tools for grazing land planning, including tools that help landowners predict vegetative production for grazing management and tools to help landowners adapt to, and plan for, drought and other extreme weather events.
-Development of innovative silvopastoral strategies that positively impact ecosystem services in hardwood and mixed-hardwood forest regions
-Development of new tools and technology that help land managers monitor residual forage. This monitoring must be at intervals and locations relevant to management objectives, follow a prescribed set of procedures and demonstrate how these estimates influenced site- and period-specific stocking rates and grazing intensities.

Any new tool(s) developed using CIG funding must: (a) be free for use by agricultural producers; (b) be your, your team or your organization's original work product; (c) be solely owned by you, your team, or your organization, with no other person or entity having any right or interest in it; and (d) not violate intellectual property rights or other rights including but not limited to copyright, trademark, patent, contract, or privacy rights, of any other person or entity. Applicants may contract with a third party for technical assistance to create the tool provided the tool itself is considered to be the applicant's deliverable and that the applicant owns all rights to the tool. Applicants may submit a proposal that includes the use of open source software or hardware provided that the effort complies with applicable open source licenses and, as part of the project, creates software that enhances and builds upon the features and functionality included in the underlying open source product.

Improving Ecosystem Function and Resilience through Prescribed Burning Programs:

NRCS invites proposals that stimulate the development and adoption of prescribed burning programs at multiple scales as a conservation measure vital to ecosystem function and resilience. Rapid and extensive woody plant expansion in grasslands and savannas reflects the essential role of fire in the maintenance of many ecosystems. However, adoption of prescribed burning as a conservation practice along with prescribed burning Conservation Activity Plans developed for NRCS clients is very low. Current social and cultural attitudes toward fire and the scarcity of qualified prescribed burning professionals are likely barriers to prescribed fire program adoption. Projects can include the development of new, and use of existing, decision tools that facilitate management and application of fire on rangeland, pastureland and grazed forestland. All projects, including field demonstrations and on-farm conservation research must:

-Incorporate specific goals and outcomes that can be effectively measured.
-Demonstrate an understanding of the dynamic role that fire plays in the ecological sites encompassed by the project.
-Evaluate the results and outcomes of reintegrating fire on ecosystem services where fire is recognized as a vital landscape process.
-Include a research agenda (if the proposal involves on-farm prescribed burning research) relevant to supporting fire management on private lands.

Project developers are encouraged to engage the scientific community and interact with other Federal agencies when developing fire management tools and promoting fire research.

Project developers are encouraged to engage prescribed fire cooperatives that bring landowners together to conduct prescribed fires on landscapes that have multiple or patchwork ownerships. These cooperatives have experience in overcoming issues associated with labor, liability, and training to restore fire regimes.

Grazingland Information Access Systems:

NRCS invites proposals that develop modem, efficient, innovative, and affordable information access tool(s) or system(s) that can quickly locate, deliver, and save selected sections of grazing land handbooks, technical notes, and associated reference materials used by conservation planners and clients. Applicants may propose tools or systems in the form of web-based software for smartphone applications or other mobile applications. The tools or systems should be developed for conservation planners, technical specialists, agricultural producers, scientists, and other grazing land stakeholders. Projects should provide information access in remote field situations where users are unable to access documents due to limited/no internet service.

2) Organic Agriculture Systems:

NRCS supports natural resource conservation in organic farming systems. Because organic farming is a production system, it is not addressed by a single NRCS conservation practice standard, but is part of many standards that address natural resources concerns for soils, water, air, plants, animals, and energy across all land uses and agricultural sectors.

Development, evaluation, and analysis of organic production systems is often difficult even after significant investment in practices such as conservation crop rotation, reduced tillage, pest management and cover crops. These and other NRCS conservation practices are intended to conserve natural resources and can also help a producer meet organic standards. NRCS requests proposals that help organic producers establish, obtain, maintain, and evaluate practices at the farm and ranch scale to support organic management decisions, systems, and strategies.

The 2018 CIG proposals must address one or more of the following organic agriculture system priorities:
-Development and demonstration of cropping and tillage systems that build soil health and overcome negative effects of tillage for weed control. Systems should be evaluated with current or proposed soil assessment tools.
-Demonstration of no-till or reduced tillage systems for organic crops for improved weed and erosion control. Systems must note how nutrient management goals are met.
-Demonstrations of organic farms or ranches using edge-of-field monitoring. Voluntary edge-of-field water quality monitoring enables agricultural producers and scientists to quantify conservation work on water quality. Through edge-of-field monitoring, NRCS works with producers and conservation partners to measure nutrients and sediment levels in water runoff from a field and compare the improvements gained under different conservation systems.
-Development of innovative crop rotations for organic transition to build soil health and lead to organic certification. Systems should match the 3 year transition period and may or may not include cash crops.
-Development and demonstration of intercropping systems including cash crops, insectaries, and cover crops to increase biodiversity and manage pests. When using approved organic pesticides, include a pesticide hazard assessment and mitigation strategy.

3) Soil Health

Soil Health Management Systems:

Soil Health Management Systems (SHMS) are a collection of NRCS conservation practices that focus on maintaining or enhancing soil health by addressing all four soil health planning principles: minimize disturbance, maximize soil cover, maximize biodiversity, and maximize presence of living roots. An SHMS is a specific cropping system and contains practices that treats the entire field. When applied as a system, SHMS achieves the greatest soil health benefit by creating systemwide synergistic effects. Information obtained through soil health assessments can be used to develop a SHMS to target specific identified constraints. NRCS invites proposals that support the adoption of SHMS in the following areas:

-Economic/Financial case studies on successful SHMS across varied production systems that include quantifying on-site net profit and offsite impacts (e.g., soil erosion, nutrient losses, water and air quality).
-Develop, demonstrate, inform, and promote design and implementation of SHMSs that are location- and production system-appropriate, economically viable, and improve soil health/soil functioning (e.g., optimize nutrient availability, optimize productivity, control soil-borne diseases, increase plant available water, increase resilience to extreme weather).
-Quantify and characterize the impacts of soil management practices (e.g., tillage, cover crops, crop rotations, soil amendments, grazing systems) across a range of soils, production systems, and climates.
-Quantify the impacts of cover crop presence, species mix, and management (e.g., termination growth stage, tillage practice, grazing) on soil water content and subsequent crop yield across a range of climates and cropping systems, especially in water limited regions.
-Quantify and demonstrate the impacts of SHMS on nutrient losses through surface and subsurface pathways for tile-drained and non-drained soils. Proposals may also design and field test SHMS that avert such losses.
-Develop innovative ways to control slug and vole problems in long-term no-till and cover crop systems.
-Quantify the potential increases in water availability and reductions in nutrient losses projecting widespread adoption of soil health promoting practices such as cover crops and no-tillage over large areas or watersheds (e.g., river basin, aquifer, etc.).
-Demonstrate formation and support of innovative soil health social networks that promote producer opportunities to try new approaches and technologies before deciding on large purchases in support of long-term adoption of SHMS.

Soil Health Assessments:

Soil Health Assessments use indicators that can be measured and interpreted through quantitative or qualitative analysis using established protocols. Indicators should be easy to interpret and sensitive to management and short-term changes. Assessments can be done either in-field and/or by a laboratory. Interpretation of how well a soil functions must consider soil and climate factors. NRCS invites proposals that support the use of soil health assessments in the following areas:

-Measure values in high functioning soils across the Nation's agriculturally important soils to aid in the identification of the potential long-term upper soil health status limits possible in various soils, using standard methods for physical, biological and chemical soil properties/soil health indicators.
-Quantify potential values and rates of change of soil health indicators/attributes in response to climate, organic input chemical composition and placement and soil management, across a range of inherent soil properties (e.g., particle size, mineralogy), production systems, and climates. This will help develop regionally adjusted indicator thresholds and soil health management recommendation systems.
-Quantify--as a function of management practices, SHMS, inherent soil properties and/or climate--the rate of increase in infiltration, available root zone, plant available soil water and soil water retention.
-Quantify the impact on soil health by different types of grazing systems across a range of climates, soils, and livestock systems, including use of standard methods for physical, biological, and chemical soil properties/soil health indicators.

Historically Underserved Producers and Veteran Farmers or Ranchers:

For the FY 2018 CIG award process, up to 20 percent of the total funds available for CIG are set aside for proposals from Historically Underserved producers, veteran farmers or ranchers, or community-based organizations comprised of or representing these entities.

To explicitly signal the applicant's intent to compete for the set-aside funds, the applicant must follow the instructions here. Applications competing for the set-aside funds must meet all other requirements of this announcement, including addressing one of the CIG priorities listed in this notice.

Funds not awarded through this set-aside will revert back into the pool of non-set-aside funds.

Technical Assistance for CIG Projects:

Conservation Innovation Grants are Grant Agreements and as such do not provide for substantial involvement between NRCS and the grantee in carrying out the activity contemplated by the Federal award. The technical assistance required to carry out a project is the responsibility of the grantee. NRCS designates an NRCS employee as a technical contact for each grant award. Technical contacts provide normal management activities during the project, such as site visits, reviewing performance reports, financial reports, and audits to ensure that standards, objectives, terms, and conditions for the projects are accomplished, but will not be substantially involved in carrying out the activity contemplated by the Federal award.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 129980

Estimated Size of Grant:

The maximum award amount for a single award in FY 2018 is $2 million.

Term of Contract:

Projects may be between 1 and 3 years in duration.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, CIG uses Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, American Indian Tribes, or individuals. Producers involved in CIG funded projects must be EQIP eligible.

Applications will be accepted from eligible entities in any of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands).

Applicant Eligibility:

All U.S.-based NFE entities and individuals, with the exception of Federal agencies, are eligible to apply. Individuals and entities may submit more than one application. Individuals and entities may receive more than one award.

Project Eligibility:

All CIG projects must involve EQIP-eligible producers that meet the eligibility requirements for EQIP listed in 7 CFR ยง 1466.6(b)(1) through (3):
-Be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions (7 CFR part 12).
-Be a person, legal entity, joint operation, Indian tribe, or native corporation who is engaged in agricultural production or forestry management or has an interest in the agricultural or forestry operation as defined in 7 CFR Part 1400.
-Have control of the land involved for the term of the proposed contract period.

Pre-proposal Conference:

A webinar for potential applicants is scheduled for January 11, 2018 at 4:00 PM Eastern Standard.

Pre-Application Information:

CIG recipients must provide a non-Federal funding match or cost-share at least equal to the amount of Federal funding requested.

NFEs must obtain a DUNS and register in SAM prior to registering with NFEs are strongly encouraged to apply early for their DUNS number and SAM registration.

Please note that the DUNS registration may take up to 14 business days to complete. Please allow a minimum of 5 days to complete the SAM registration.

Applications must be received by 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on February 26, 2018.

Applicants may visit the CIG applicants page for additional help in preparing applications:

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

A webinar for potential applicants is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2018 at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and can be accessed by clicking here offsite link image

The January 11 webinar may be accessed here:

1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 6143-S
Washington, D.C. 20250

(202) 720-1895

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Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)