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Vilsack annouces Conservation Innovative Grants

HURON, S.D.--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $18.4 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to fund 55 projects to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies and approaches to help farmers and ranchers conserve and sustain natural resources.

"New technology can play an important role in addressing environmental problems, and the Obama Administration is committed to developing innovative solutions to natural resource management and conservation issues facing farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "These Conservation Innovation Grants will benefit both agriculture and the environment by getting 21st century ideas in the hands of our producers across the country."

South Dakota is included in four different grants with a combined total of more than $3.3 million to help conserve and protect our nation's natural resources.

The Thule Group of Consultants was awarded more than $1.1 million to establish a carbon credit protocol. The goal of this project is to establish market-based incentives using carbon credit dollars to encourage the use of promising new technologies for aerobic manure treatment.

South Dakota State University was awarded over $600,000 to research precision cover crops for improved soil health. The purpose of the project is to demonstrate that cover crops can increase the sustainability of renewable resources and improve soil health, microbial diversity, and water availability within continuous no-tillage systems.

Ecosystem Management Research Institute received $650,000 in a shared grant between South Dakota and Nebraska for coordinated restoration of native grasslands using innovative practices. The purpose is to implement a coordinated and collaborative grassland restoration program that addresses restoration objectives identified in South Dakota and Nebraska Wildlife Action Plans as well as the Grassland Conservation Plan for Prairie Grouse.

Agflex, Inc. was awarded $930,703 in a multi-state grant, which includes South Dakota, for Best Management Practices challenge across the cornbelt and rapid adoption of conservation tillage in California through improved technical assistance and managing risk.

"The conservation Innovation Grant program enables USDA to review, field test, and demonstrate practices and ideas that have yet to be successfully mainstreamed into our portfolio of practice options," said Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers the program and provides technical oversight for each project.

The Conservation Innovation Grant program is designed to speed the transfer and enhance use of technologies and methods that show promise in solving the nation's top natural resource problems by targeting innovative, on-the-ground conservation. Approved projects address issues such as water quantity and quality, grazing lands, soil and forest health, and air quality.

Grantees provide matching funds, bringing the total value of the approved projects to more than $36.8 million. The program targets grants to state and local governments, Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals.

As part of its continuing outreach efforts to minority and underserved communities, USDA will fund six proposals valued at $1 million to help Native American tribes and limited resource producers address natural resource issues, energy efficiency, and market-based approaches to conservation.

Additional information about CIG, including summaries of fiscal year approved projects, is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig. For more information about USDA's conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov <http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/> or the nearest USDA Service Center in your area.

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