USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to commit up to $35 million during the next three years to help landowners conserve grasslands and wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, which includes north-central Iowa. Prairie Pothole farmers in Iowa have until March 21 to sign up for the project in their local NRCS office to receive priority funding.
A combination of program offerings and partnerships will provide farmers access to a mix of technical and financial assistance opportunities to restore wetlands and grasslands and help mitigate a recent regional trend of conversion of these lands to crops. "This region, which includes much of north-central Iowa, provides critical breeding and nesting habitat for more than 60% of the nation's migratory waterfowl," says Jay Mar, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa.
USDA to Invest $35M in Prairie Pothole Conservation Efforts
The region provides vital water storage to reduce flooding and improve water quality, and it has tremendous potential to store carbon in soils and biomass, which reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. The funding comes in a couple of pieces, including:
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program: The agency's largest conservation program will help producers with expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts keep their lands as working grasslands or haylands through implementation of prescribed grazing and other conservation practices.
- NRCS also is providing additional technical assistance to complete certified wetland determinations, needed by producers to meet conservation compliance requirements first put in place in 1985.
For more information on these opportunities, visit a local NRCS field office or the NRCS website.
Iowa NRCS Announces Funding for 2014 Conservation Innovation Grants
In other news, NRCS is requesting project proposals for the Conservation Innovation Grants or CIG program – at both the state and national level.
The purpose of the CIG program is to develop and adopt innovative conservation approaches and technologies in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG provides farmers the opportunity to address some of Iowa's most pressing natural resource conservation needs through innovative measures.
In Iowa, $800,000 is available in funding for proposals, which are due by April 30. Selected applicants may receive up to 50% of the total project cost, not to exceed $75,000. Applicants must provide non-federal matching funds for at least 50% of the project cost, of which up to 25% of the total project cost may be from in-kind contributions.
Project proposals should demonstrate the use of innovative technologies or approaches to address one or more of the following natural resource concerns: soil health/quality, Iowa nutrient management strategy, grassland management, marketing of grass fed beef, drought mitigation, or technology related to establishing cover crops.
State applications can be submitted by email to Paul Goldsmith at [email protected]. Application materials are available on the Iowa NRCS website.
For national grants, NRCS must receive pre-proposals by March 7. NRCS will select pre-proposals by April 7, and then selected applicants must submit a full proposal package by May 5. CIG will fund single and multiyear projects, not to exceed three years.
Applicants must be a non-governmental organization, a private business or individual, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, or state or local unit of government. If you are interested in applying online, visit Grants.gov. For more information about the National CIG program, visit the NRCS website.