The Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the State Soil Conservation Board awarded $2,313,287 in matching grant funds to 26 projects within soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and soil health organizations through the Clean Water Indiana program.
“Providing farmers and landowners with tools and funding to keep our Indiana waterways clean and their soil structure healthy is key to keeping Indiana agriculture thriving,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This funding will allow 48 organizations across 26 projects to improve their local water systems, keep their soil healthy and keep their communities thriving. Last year's increase in Clean Water Indiana funding from the general assembly is already making a lasting impact."
The Clean Water Indiana program is administered by the state’s soil conservation board. The program, led by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), provides financial assistance to landowners and conservation groups that are working to reduce runoff from non-point sources of water pollution, whether it’s on agricultural land, urban areas or eroding streambanks.
Once received, districts can use the funds to partner with other counties or address specific needs within their jurisdiction. Some examples include participating in a cost share program, hiring staff, providing technical assistance, implementing cover crop incentive programs or increasing watershed capacity.
Clean Water Indiana (CWI) is managed by ISDA’s Division of Soil Conservation and funded by a portion of the state’s cigarette tax. Projects can be up to three years in length and grantees could apply for any dollar amount that was necessary to complete the project. Funded projects ranged from $10,000 to $300,000. In addition to CWI funds, each grantee is required to produce a match for their project, which can be cash or in-kind. Projects requesting staffing were required to have a 25% match for that component, while all other project areas required a 50% match. Many SWCDs will target producers not currently served by other conservation programs.
Among areas agencies receiving awards:
Fulton County SWCD- $145,461
The Nature Exploration Conservation Station (NECS)- This grant will allow Fulton County SWCD to add a part-time District Administrator. The new administrator will be responsible for the operation and management of the SWCD office and the preparation and delivery of conservation education programs. This grant will also add a brand new outdoor mobile classroom that will allow residents of all ages to learn about the local environment, understand and make informed decisions regarding environmental impact and connect residents to technical and financial assistance for implementing conservation practices and technologies.
Cass County SWCD – $48,600
Administrative Assistant Staff Position, Part-time, for Cass Co. SWCD- Cass County SWCD currently has one employee who was hired to do both administration and outreach. In order to continue to maintain and build current programming and introduce new programming and outreach into the community additional staff support is needed. Funds will be utilized to pay for a part-time administrative assistant. This new position will allow the Cass Co. SWCD to continue to build momentum and grow to better support the county.
Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts- $300,000
Urban Soil Health Program- Urban Soil Health Program (USH) was launched in 2021 to support urban and small-scale producers across Indiana. The program is designed to serve all districts, all conservation partners and all communities. This model ensures that there is equitable access to the program from districts and partners who wish to engage. There is a strong connection with ICP partners and conservation programs. The USH Program cultivates locally led initiatives and provides state-level support and coordination amongst traditional programs.
Marshall and St. Joseph County SWCDs- $86,250
Marshall and St. Joseph Counties Landowner Invasive Management Cost Share Program- A cost share program through the districts for invasive species removal. The land would be managed by the applicant who would agree to follow set guidelines. Three-year programs would be used for the 10 applications for 10 acres or over of woodlands, and the management plans for under 10 acres could be more flexible, depending upon the ability of the landowner’s desires and ability to assist/participate.
The Nature Conservancy- $82,500
Indiana Cover Crop Premium Discount Project- Over 85% of cropland acres carry crop insurance, and linking resilient practices, like cover crops, to crop insurance has the potential to catalyze conservation adoption and keep Indiana as the epicenter of soil health. This project mirrors statewide efforts previously established in both Illinois and Iowa, and it provides eligible participants a $5/acre premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and verified in the program.
Farmers participating in the project will be awarded a $5/acre insurance premium discount from USDA-RMA through normal crop insurance processes. Only acres in cover crops (absent other state or federally incentivized cover crops) will be eligible for the premium discount. Applications reviewed and confirmed by ISDA will be forwarded to the USDA-RMA for processing premium discounts on crop insurance premium invoices for their cash crop. Being a first-time cover crop user is not a requirement but will be given priority for funding. The 2024-2025 Cover Crop Premium Reduction Program will support 30,000 acres of cover crops.