The USDA is investing up to $25 million per year over the next five years to help support the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural lands. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting proposals through July 15, 2019, for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials. On-Farm Trials is a new, additional sub-program created by the 2018 Farm Bill for the agency’s Conservation Innovation Grants program.
On-Farm Trials include a Soil Health Demo Trial, also created by the 2018 Farm Bill. The On-Farm Trials funding announcement, including the 2019 funding priorities, is available here.
NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said, “The addition of On-Farm Trials and the Soil Health Demo Trial provide us with expanded opportunities to work with partners to encourage the adoption of innovative conservation approaches that, for any number of reasons, have yet to be widely adopted by agricultural producers.”
NRCS is now accepting proposals from the following eligible entities:
- Private entities whose primary business is related to agriculture.
- Non-governmental organizations with experience working with agricultural producers.
- Non-Federal government agencies.
On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials
Through On-Farm Trials, NRCS and partners will collaborate to encourage the adoption of innovative practices and systems on agricultural lands. The program funding goes directly to partners, which in turn provide technical assistance and incentive payments to producers to implement innovative approaches on their lands. Producers receiving program payments must be eligible to participate in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The maximum On-Farm Trials award for 2019 is $5 million. The minimum award is $250,000.
A critical element of each On-Farm Trials project is the project evaluation. Partners must propose robust scientific approaches to their on-farm trials, resulting in data and analyses of the environmental, financial and (to the extent possible) social impacts of the trials. For the Soil Health Demo Trial, partners must agree to use consistent soil health assessment protocols developed by NRCS.
On-Farm Trials is distinct from traditional national CIG competitive grants funding, which is used to support early pilot projects or demonstrations of promising conservation approaches and technologies and is not typically provided directly to producers. On-Farm Trials funding is designed to flow through partners directly to producers to implement innovative approaches that have been well-studied and known to provide conservation benefits.
“We are asking partners that have access to producer networks to join us in putting innovative conservation under the microscope to figure out how to expand the adoption of innovative practices and systems,” Lohr said. “NRCS intends to use On-Farm Trials results to inform our own work with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.”