Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced that up to $5 million is available in fiscal year 2005 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

"This grant competition provides farmers and ranchers the opportunity to address some of the Chesapeake watershed's most pressing natural resource conservation needs," Johanns said. "Innovative conservation technologies and approaches will help in the restoration, protection and enhancement of the bay area."

The Chesapeake Bay watershed covers more than 64,000 square miles extending over parts of six states: Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. It is the largest estuary in the United States and has a rich diversity of productive agriculture operating in close proximity to nearly 17 million residents.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) issued a request for proposals (RFP) that is on the agency's website and the Federal eGrants website at Applicants will have 60 days to submit proposals.

CIG is offered to a variety of potential applicants, including state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, tribes and individuals, to help develop, test, implement and transfer innovative environmental solutions. Projects may be from one to three years in length and must address at least one of the CIG natural resource concerns identified annually by NRCS. Grants will fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations.

Selected applicants may receive grants up to 50 percent of the total project cost. Applicants must provide nonfederal matching funds for at least 50 percent of the project cost, of which up to 50 percent may be from in-kind contributions. An exception allows for beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers, tribes and community-based organizations representing these groups to obtain up to 75 percent of project matching funds from in-kind contributions. The federal contribution may not exceed $1 million for a single project.

Source: USDA Release