The program is “primarily designed to begin to test-market certain ideas and concepts,” said Vilsack. “It allows us to refine our measuring processes and how markets could be assisted. Most of these are strategies for various types of production processes. This is foundational work being done.

“But we’re excited about the breadth of the foundation work involving a multitude of crops (and) the livestock industry in an aggressive way. We’re really interested in the fertilizer piece of this, as well.”

Vilsack was asked how a constrained federal budget figured into the process. He returned to the theme of “creating a foundation” so “as we do conservation to the extent we do a better job of modeling, measuring, quantifying the results of certain conservation programs and techniques – and suites of conservation practices – we’ll do a better job of potentially attracting private sector investment. … In turn, (that) will result in leveraging the federal dollars more effectively than we have in the past.”

As for how much private funding is being put into the projects, White saidthe “nine grants amount to $7.4 million. … That requires at least a 50 percent non-federal match. So, the $7.4 million in federal funds will be matched by another $7.4 million for roughly $14.8 million.   

“The other $10 million we’re making available is through EQIP. That is to help implement the practices the various projects may develop. (EQIP) is a cost-share program … generally the cost-share ranges from 50 to 75 percent. So, (for the EQIP part of the effort) another $5 million, or so, will be farmer-leveraged funds.”