USDA-NRCS Awards over $1.1 Million to Vermont Entities in Conservation Innovation Grants

Contacts:

United States Department of Agriculture • Natural Resources Conservation Service • 356 Mountain View Dr., Suite 105, Colchester, Vermont 05446 • Phone: (802) 951-6796 • Web: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov Contact: Bob Kort, 802-951-6796 ext. 233

Saturday, September 8, 2012
 

VERMONT, September 10, 2012- Innovation is alive and well in Vermont, especially in terms of answering some of the many questions that face the business of agriculture. The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) headquarters in Washington D.C. announced the award of national Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) to two Vermont entities. A national competition is held yearly for CIG funding, which is used to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies to address some of the Nation's most pressing natural resource concerns.

The Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets has been awarded $781,226 in federal funds to establish and implement an innovative, flexible, cost-effective water quality trading initiative to achieve net reductions in phosphorus loadings into Lake Champlain. The project will involve and improve collaboration among point sources (publicly owned waste water treatment facilities and municipalities) and nonpoint sources (storm water runoff and agricultural sectors), and identify cost- effective solutions for achieving phosphorus load reductions. Charles Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, said about CIG funding, “These critical federal funds make it possible to build public/private partnerships with Vermont’s farm community and municipalities, enhancing our ability to implement innovative practices to reduce the negative impact of phosphorus in our ‘great’ lake”.

The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College received a national CIG award for $66,365 to create energy savings through holistic planned grazing management. Managed grazing provides an opportunity to reduce energy use and costs through reduced need for harvested feed, manure collection, effluent storage and application, and animal housing. Holistic planned grazing is one approach based around setting whole farm goals, and a method of making careful decisions to reduce energy costs significantly.

Vicky M. Drew, State Conservationist of USDA NRCS Vermont, announced the award of five state-level Conservation Innovation Grants. These are awarded through a statewide competitive grants process for eligible Vermont entities. CIG is funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts to help plan and implement conservation practices to improve soil, water, plant, animal, and energy resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.

The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College was awarded three of the five Vermont state grants. NRCS is investing $63,376 for demonstration of and education on techniques used by grass-based livestock farming innovators, $30,436 for the formation of a watershed based farmer conservation group in Addison, Chittenden and Rutland Counties, and $16,398 to add several innovative improvements to a greenhouse insulation system to facilitate adoption by growers in Vermont.

Long Wind Farm Inc., of East Thetford, VT received a CIG for $75,000 to displace fossil fuel energy and increase the farm’s energy efficiency by using geothermal resources to heat and cool the propagation compartment in a greenhouse. This study will demonstrate the beneficial effects, and potentially the unforeseen adverse effects, of using geothermal cooling and ground-source heat pump technology.

The final Vermont state CIG, in the amount of $75,000, was awarded to the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets for the development of an Agricultural Water Quality Certainty Program. This program will create a framework that recognizes and rewards farmers who voluntarily implement conservation practices to minimize nutrient and sediment losses from their farm, above and beyond that which is required by law in Vermont.

CIG is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. USDA-NRCS administers the CIG program which requires a 50-50 match between the agency and the applicant.

More information about the Conservation Innovation Grant program through USDA-NRCS can be found online here: http://www.vt.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CIG/index.html, or by contacting the Vermont CIG Program Manager, Bob Kort, at 802-951-6796 ext. 233, or Bob.Kort@vt.usda.gov.