The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has selected three California organizations to receive national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awards for 2014. NRCS administers both a national and a state-level CIG program to fund the development of unique and innovative solutions that will make natural resources conservation more effective and efficient. State level grants will be announced soon.
“Conservation Innovation Grants provide organizations financial resources to create and implement innovative programs or practices that benefit conservation-minded farmers and ranchers,” said Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for NRCS in California. “California’s CIG selectees will develop resources to help local producers overcome water quality, air quality and pollinator habitat issues.”
The Western Riverside County Agricultural Coalition (WRCAC) will receive $200,000 to determine if local farmers would benefit from trading water quality credits within a Water Quality Trading (WQT) program. The Coalition will assess several different pilot scenarios to determine which option would be most feasible. The goal is to help local farmers meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations established for nearby streams and waterways.
“WRCAC is pleased to be selected as a 2014 CIG recipient,” said Bruce Scott, chairman. “We have been actively engaged in the TMDL process over the past 12 years. This project addresses a way for individual agricultural operators to engage in trades within the agricultural community, to meet their TMDL requirements in a new and innovative way.”
The Regents of the University of California will receive $230,000 to support a farmer-initiated effort for monitoring and evaluating pollinator habitat, and educating and engaging agricultural producers in pollinator conservation. As 30 percent of U.S. food crops depend on honey bee pollination, the implications of ongoing bee declines are of growing concern. Recent research has explored the potential of native bees to supplement pollination services. However, more hands-on research is needed to quantify the impacts of native bee farming and identify methods to encourage the best native bees for specific crops and engage farmers in implementation.
The California Dairy Research Foundation will receive $73,000 to develop, field-test and demonstrate the use of an electronically available teaching and learning (eLearning) system as an innovative approach to conservation-practice adoption and nutrient management implementation.
Dairy regulatory requirements in California require the implementation waste management and nutrient management plans but multiple challenges exist which may prevent full implementation of these plans within a given operation. This learning platform will help overcome implementation gaps and provide dairy producers with needed skills and resources.
In addition to funding these three state projects, California will benefit from a multi-state grant to help rice growers achieve and verify greenhouse gas emissions reductions, using low emission rice practices in their fields.
NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues. For a full list of national CIG award winners, please visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/cig/?cid=stelprdb1260847
NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information on NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.