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Regional Conservation Partnerships Program

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Announcement for program and Application Package 

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RCPP on the NRCS National website. 

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements.

RCPP combines the authorities of four former conservation programs – the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program. Assistance is delivered in accordance with the rules of EQIP, CSP, ACEP and HFRP; and in certain areas the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program.

FY16 Funding Webinars

Benefits

RCPP encourages partners to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales.

Through RCPP, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas.  Partners leverage RCPP funding in project areas and report on the benefits achieved.  The Secretary of Agriculture may also designate up to eight critical conservation areas to focus RCPP assistance.

NEW FUNDING AVAILABLE BEGINNING MAY 4, 2015

Funding for RCPP is allocated to projects in three different categories.

Thumbnail of map outlining CCA areas Thumbnail of map of US salmon-colored placeholder map

Critical Conservation Areas

For projects in eight geographic areas chosen by Secretary. These receive 35 percent of funding. Learn more.

National

For nationwide and multistate projects. These receive 40 percent of funding. Learn more.

State

For projects in a single state. These receive 25 percent of funding. Learn more.

Conservation program contracts and easement agreements are implemented through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) or the Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP). NRCS may also utilize the authorities under the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program, other than the Watershed Rehabilitation Program, in the designated critical conservation areas.

Indiana's Priorities

Indiana's priorities are:

  • Water Quality
  • Soil Quality
  • At-Risk Species Habitat

Eligibility

Eligible Partners - Agricultural or silvicultural producer associations, farmer cooperatives or other groups of producers, state or local governments, American Indian tribes, municipal water treatment entities, water and irrigation districts, conservation-driven nongovernmental organizations and institutions of higher education.

Eligible Participants - Under RCPP, eligible producers and landowners of agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland may enter into conservation program contracts or easement agreements under the framework of a partnership agreement.  RCPP assistance is also available independent of a partner if the land is located either in a partner project area or in a critical conservation area designated by the Secretary. 

How to Apply

NRCS will release an announcement for program funding, that will outline requirements for proposal submissions for funding. NRCS will review partnership proposals according to the priorities identified in the announcement and make project selections. Upon selection of a partnership proposal, NRCS and the partner will enter into a partnership agreement through which they will coordinate to provide producers in the project area assistance. Partnership agreements may be for a period of up to five years. NRCS may extend an agreement one time for an additional 12 months if needed to meet the objectives of the program.

Producers may apply for RCPP assistance in several ways:
  1. At the producer's request, a partner may submit the application for participation in a selected project area
  2. Directly at their local USDA Service Center in a selected project area

Partnership Agreements

The partnership agreement defines the scope of the project, including:

  1. Eligible activities to be implemented
  2. Potential agricultural or nonindustrial private forest operation affected
  3. Local, state, multi-state or other geographic area covered
  4. Planning, outreach, implementation, and assessment to be conducted. Partners are responsible for contributing to the cost of the project, conducting outreach and education to eligible producers for potential participation in the project and for conducting an assessment of the project’s effects. In addition, partners may act on behalf of the eligible landowner or producer in applying for assistance and for leveraging financial or technical assistance provided by NRCS with additional funds to help achieve the project objectives.

Before closing the agreement the partner must provide an assessment of the project costs and conservation effects.

2014-2015 Funded Projects

The first projects of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program have been selected. The three projects that effect Indiana are:

  • The University of Notre Dame – The project will assist with adoption of cover crops on 85 percent of cropland, and two-stage ditches along the majority of channelized ditches, in two targeted 12-ditch watersheds. Through water quality monitoring, the project will quantify the soil and water quality/quantity benefits from the implementation of these practices in the watersheds. Based on preliminary research, 40 to 45 percent reductions in nutrient loss are achievable with this approach, which will be monitored at the watershed scale. A key component of the project is to accurately document the effect of these practices on environmental conditions (water and soil quality) and estimate the full costs and benefits for both public and private interests. In addition, the data will support modeling efforts that will allow for broader conclusions regarding the effectiveness of these conservation practices, regionally and beyond.
  • The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative – A diverse team of partners will use a targeted approach to identify high-priority sub-watersheds for phosphorus reduction and increase farmer access to public and private technical assistance—including innovative demonstrations of practices that NRCS does not yet cover—in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Identified actions are coordinated with the Ohio Phosphorus Task Force Report and will move Lake Erie toward goals developed in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 4 Nutrient Strategies. The partners will gauge success and monitor results using project-wide water quality monitoring and watershed modeling conducted by national experts from multiple scientific entities and institutions.
  • The Michigan/Indiana St. Joseph River Conservation Partnership - The partnership strives to find solutions to increasing groundwater withdrawals and sediment and nutrient loading that are economically good for the farmer but also have multiple conservation benefits, including optimizing groundwater use, improving infiltration, and reducing nutrients and sediment while also improving wildlife and fisheries habitat. Innovative methods to target high-priority areas and appropriate conservation practices will take an already developed watershed management plan to the next level. Monitoring will be used to adaptively manage this project at various levels, from the field-scale to the entire watershed. Partners have a strong history of working with both NRCS and producers.

Nearly 600 pre-proposals were submitted in 2014. The top pre-proposals were invited to submit a full proposal, and NRCS received 210 proposals requesting $1.4 billion – four times the available funding.

For a full list of all the RCPP funded projects and their summaries, please visit the national RCPP website at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=stelprdb1264664

More Information

RCPP Fact Sheet (PDF, 391KB)

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted

For more information contact Jill Reinhart at:  jill.reinhart@in.usda.gov or 317-295-5883