USDA Announces $26 Million Investment to Spur Agricultural Innovation
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USDA Announces $26 Million Investment to Spur Agricultural Innovation

North Carolina receiving over $550,000 in awarded investments

September 8, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the investment of $26.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) into 45 projects that will spur innovative conservation initiatives on both rural and urban farms across the country.

Public and private grantees will provide matching investments, bringing the total value of support to $59 million. The investment is made through USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change.

The 2016 projects focus on water quality, conservation finance and assistance to historically underserved USDA customers. Approximately 25 percent of the funding announced today will go to projects that benefit historically underserved producers, military veterans, and new and beginning farmers.

"The Conservation Innovation Grant program is a highly competitive conservation grant program that helps put the very best conservation tools to work on privately held farms and forests, for maximum environmental impact," said Vilsack. "This investment will offer farmers, ranchers and forest landowners new ways to protect their natural resources and new revenue streams to keep their operations viable, building on the record amount of conservation work that has already been done under this Administration. Demand for this type of support outpaces what USDA can provide alone, but outside partners are willing to make additional investments because they see the good it can do for the environment and for their communities."

Of the 45 awarded, North Carolina received two with a grand total of $554,400 invested.

One of the awarded projects will be given to North Carolina State University to address water quality concerns. They propose to harmonize P-Index results across southern state boundaries and provide more robust factors in Indices. As these linkages occur across southern States, information can then be transferred to and from other regions (i.e., Heartland and Northeastern). This will allow continued coordination and communication with the other regions of the country, as well as the National P Index CIG Integration project.

The second is going to Operation Spring Plant for projects benefiting the historically undeserved. They propose to illustrate to socially disadvantaged producers the benefits of adopting and implementing innovative proven NRCS conservation measures/technologies to address Nutrient Management, On-Farm Energy, Water Quality and Conservation Cover issues.

A model of this demonstration will be made available by an on-farm installation project that addresses existing resource and production concerns that are obstacles to the success of the black small family farm. Operation Spring Plant will use these on farm demonstrations to make an impact on farmers' confidence to adopt conservation and new technology practices.

With funding from this announcement, USDA has invested nearly $173 million to fund 414 national CIG projects since 2009. For this round of funding, USDA received 170 applications requesting more than $100 million, which far exceeded the initial funding target of approximately $20 million. USDA is making an investment of $26.6 million today, on September 8, 2016, which will leverage an additional $32.5 million in matching investments from the grantees, more than doubling the federal investment.