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USDA seeks groups, farmers' participation in $25 million grant program

Farmers will be paid for implementing innovative conservation approaches.

The USDA is opening the money window for groups that want to partner with farmers in finding conservation efforts that can scale.

On Wednesday, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that it is seeking proposals through June 21 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials (On-Farm Trials). On-Farm Trials, part of the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, feature collaboration between NRCS and partners to implement on-the-ground conservation activities and then evaluate their impact. 

NRCS will invest up to $25 million on On-Farm Trials in 2021. This total includes up to $10 million for the Soil Health Demonstration Trials (SHD) priority. The Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHD) component of On-Farm Trials focuses exclusively on implementation of conservation practices and systems that improve soil health. 

Incentive payments are provided to producers to offset the risk of implementing innovative approaches.
This program harnesses the expertise, resources, and capacity of partner organizations nationwide to help NRCS boost natural resource conservation on private lands and support climate-smart agriculture.

Eligible farmers can work with the groups that are awarded the grants from the CIG program.

Jimmy Bramblett, NRCS Deputy Chief for Programs, says that non-governmental organizations and non-federal organizations are eligible to apply for the On-Farm Trials grants.

“The idea is to take some of the plot scale research at land-grant universities and other partners and test them at the farm scale, then see if those conservation concepts can prove out under a larger scale under different measures of risk. For instance, with $6 corn and $14 soybeans, can these concepts scale out. Or, can they scale out under other climate risks,” Bramblett told Successful Farming.

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Bramblett added, “The On-Farm Trials program will work with producers who are EQUIP-program eligible.”

This means that farmers have to be in compliance with financial and conservation policies in order to be eligible to take part in the On-Farm Trials program.

The concepts that prove themselves will be adopted by the NRCS and used throughout the operations of the 200,000 farmers and ranchers the agency works with each year, Bramblett says.

In the past, state grower groups, trade organizations, major land grant universities, and small college and universities have been recipients of past CIG grants. 

NRCS is seeking proposals that address at least one of the following four On-Farm Trial priorities:

  •     Climate-smart agricultural solutions
  •     Soil health demonstration trial
  •     Irrigation water management
  •     Management technologies and strategies

NRCS will accept proposals from the following eligible entities:

  •     Private entities whose primary business is related to agriculture
  •     Non-government organizations with experience working with agricultural producers
  •     Non-federal government agencies

NRCS encourages proposal submissions from historically underserved entities and encourages all applicants to meaningfully include historically underserved producers in their On-Farm Trials proposal submissions.

On May 13, 2021, NRCS will host a webinar for those who want to learn more about the On-Farm Trials program. 

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