USDA co-invests $59m in agri conservation

The USDA and private partners are investing $59m in projects that address water quality and conservation issues, with a third of strategies designed to attract further private investment into agricultural land conservation.

The US Department of Agriculture and unnamed private bodies are investing $59 million in 45 agricultural projects to improve water quality and conserve the environment.

The USDA is contributing $26.6 million through its Conservation Innovation Grants programme, which focuses on market-based strategies to tackle issues like climate change, water quality and energy conservation.

Thirteen of the targeted projects are conservation finance awards, designed to create infrastructure and financing frameworks that attract more private capital to working lands conservation.

“This investment will offer farmers, ranchers and forest landowners new ways to protect their natural resources and new revenue streams to keep their operations viable, building on the record amount of conservation work that has already been done under this Administration,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Demand for this type of support outpaces what USDA can provide alone, but outside partners are willing to make additional investments.”

The USDA received 170 applications requesting more than $100 million, five times the initial $20 million. Individual CIG project financing is capped at $2 million with plans expected to be completed in three years.

The department has now invested almost $29 billion on conservation improvements, with $173 million invested in 414 CIG projects since 2009, according to a statement.

The department’s CIG programme has been funding science-based conservation strategies designed to support impact investing and attract other forms of private financing since last year. Projects have often addressed specific conservation needs, including pollinator conservation, and improved investment mechanisms to access mitigation banking programmes.