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News Release

New Initiative Funds Florida Conservation Efforts

NRCS is accepting proposals for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program for state, regional and national conservation projects.

Gainesville, FL., May 27, 2014– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the launch of what he calls “a new era in American conservation efforts” with a focus on public-private partnership.

“We’re giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations,” Vilsack said.

The new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and will benefit areas all across the nation.  RCPP combines four former programs -- Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion.

The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due Sept. 26.

“Local decision making is empowered through this program– bringing together conservation groups, cities and townships, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and others – to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Florida,” said Russell Morgan, NRCS state conservationist in Florida.

With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program will leverage $2.4 billion for conservation. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.

The RCPP has three funding pools:

  • 35 percent of total program funding directed to critical conservation areas, chosen by the agriculture secretary;
  • 40 percent directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process;
  • 25 percent directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.

Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas, which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding: Great Lakes Region, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, Prairie Grasslands and the Colorado River Basin. Parts of Florida are included in the Longleaf Pine range.

Longleaf pine forests once encompassed more than 90 million acres of the North American landscape and represented some of the world’s most unique biologically diverse ecosystems. In 2010, about 3 percent, or 3.4 million acres, of longleaf pine forest remained. With this Critical Conservation Area designation, USDA will build on existing partnerships to improve longleaf pine forest ecosystems. Conservation efforts will address invasive species, habitat degradation and water quality with a goal of increasing longleaf pine acreage from 3.4 to 8 million acres by 2025.

Priorities for Florida proposals include inadequate habitat for fish and wildlife, plant and animal health (degraded plant condition & livestock production limitation), insufficient water (surface and ground water quantities), soil health (erosion & quality) and water quality degradation.

View the grant opportunity here. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.

Contact your Local USDA Service Center or

Jeff Woods, 352-338-9515.

Roney Gutierrez, 352-338-3502.

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