$260 Million Available for Conservation Program

$260 Million Available for Conservation Program

March 15, 2016

The USDA announced this week the availability of up to $260 million in funding for proposals to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.  The funding is available through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and applicants must be able to match the federal award with private or local funds.

The USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2017 RCPP funding.  Pre-proposals are due May 10.  For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website and check out a list of RCPP facts.

"Across the country, locally-driven efforts are having a positive effect on conservation and production," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  "RCPP serves as a valuable vehicle for matching federal investment and private capital to advance natural resource conservation and support agricultural production.  Partners in the 84 high-impact projects we announced in February are matching USDA funding more than two-to-one for a combined investment of over $720 million."

"We recognize the growing interested in leveraging private capital markets to foster impact investments in conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry," said Vilsack.  "For this new round, we hope to see even more applications that support the development of environmental markets and conservation finance projects."

See a list of 2016 projects by state.

One of the 2016 high-impact projects announced in February 2016, the Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership, brings together the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and around 40 other public and private partners to advance since-based, non-regulatory approach for reducing nutrient loss and improving water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species.  Partners in this project are matching NRCS funding four-to one for a total investment of about $47.5 million in priority watersheds in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

Partners in Delaware and Maryland are using RCPP projects to accelerate the installation of best management practices that enable farmers to meet the nutrient and sediment water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. THE NRCS investment here is being matched by 15 partners to deliver $10 million impact in this critical watershed.

See the Eight Critical Conservative Areas identified by the RCPP.

Projects from the first round of investment are already showing results. In New Mexico, an RCPP partnership between the Interstate Stream Commission and an acequia—a local communal irrigation system—has addressed long-standing infrastructure failures to significantly reduce water needs by improving irrigation efficiency. In Oregon, removal of encroaching juniper was part of the West-wide private lands conservation effort that helped obviate the need to list the Greater sage-grouse on the endangered species list.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, click here.

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