The first-ever “conservation innovation” grants are being awarded in Iowa this week. Merlin Bartz, regional assistant chief of the U-S-D-A’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, says the grants were established by the 2002 farm bill as part of the environmental quality incentives program. The grants take research and apply it on the ground to make the air, water and ground cleaner. Bartz says programs already winning grants will improve farm irrigation in Arizona, reduce invasive species in Minnesota wetlands and improving air quality in California. Bartz says the grants are being doled out in the Hawkeye State too. Three were awarded exclusively to Iowa — the Iowa Soybean Association is getting a one-million dollar grant while the Iowa Cattleman’s Association is getting 415-thousand dollars. The third grant is being announced today in Mason City. Bartz explains more about the goal of the grants.The fund helps projects that develop innovative technology or approaches that enhance and protect the environment. Bartz says these grants will “make the possible into the practical” with the aid of federal investment. For more information, surf to “”.