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RCPP Frequently Asked Questions

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RCPP Frequently Asked Questions

General

Q: How can farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners get involved in RCPP?

Q: Can an eligible partner compete in all three funding pools (State, National, and CCA) with one project application?

Q: Can a partner submit multiple applications?

Q: How does an applicant choose which funding pool to select?

Q: If a proposal fits in a better funding pool than as submitted, can NRCS move it to the more appropriate pool?

Q: Will there be other opportunities for partners to apply for RCPP?

Q: Will the Critical Conservation Areas (CCAs) stay the same in subsequent years?

Q: How will state funding be determined?

Q:How is RCPP different than the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative or the Mississippi River Basin Initiative?

Q: Do projects have to conform to ACEP, EQIP, and other covered programs, or can they be cross-cutting?

Q: Is there an opportunity to revise existing NRCS conservation practices, or create new ones, assuming new guidance and technical standards were written prior to implementation of the program?

Q: Can NRCS share the shape files with Critical Conservation Area boundaries to help partners determine if their project is eligible, or is NRCS viewing these boundaries as somewhat flexible?

Q: Does a CCA application have to cover the entire CCA area? Does the proposal in the CCA have to be multi-state?

Q: What happens if a project area is in a county that is partially within the CCA and partially outside the boundary?

Q: Are all of the resource concerns listed in the Announcement for Program Funding considered primary resource concerns? If so, where is the secondary resource concerns listed?

Q: What kind of discretion does NRCS have to make adjustments to regulations? Can NRCS offer different funding accounts for BMP's and change payment rates based on geography, load, and distance from streams?

Q: If a program is not currently offered in one area, such as HFRP, can it now be offered in another State?

Q: If a proposal covers multiple states, which state's NRCS policies will govern?

Q: Should state projects specifically focus on areas not covered by CCA?

Q: How should an application propose to measure outcomes? How will the methods selected to measure the outcomes affect ranking of projects?

Q: Please clarify practice, monitoring, and outcome?

Q: Can you describe what is meant by "Existing strong partnerships"?

Funding Availability

Q: How much money is available nationwide in RCPP?

Q: Is there a minimum and maximum funding amount for an individual proposal?

Q: Does NRCS have to obligate the money by Sept 30, 2014?

Q: Can proposals be partially funded?

Technical and Financial Assistance

Q: Which RCPP funds go to a partner for distribution? Which funds are paid directly to producers?

Q: Can partners manage Financial and Technical Assistance for NRCS contracts?

Q: What are the barriers to NRCS technical assistance? Will we know what NRCS can provide and what the partner can provide?

Q: Is outreach and education considered technical assistance?

Q: Can salary be covered under Technical Assistance for RCPP projects?

Q: Can NRCS Technical Assistance be used for administrative costs?

Q: Can partners provide incentives to entice landowners to participate in the program?

Q: For Financial Assistance included in a selected project with a signed partnership agreement, will partners have final decision on contracts or will program contracts still need to rank out in normal state ranking processes?

Q: If a producer is already implementing an EQIP and/or CSP contract, would that producer be eligible under an RCPP project?

Q: Do farmers and ranchers within a CCA or other RCPP designated area remain eligible for program funds apart from the RCPP.

Q: Does a landowner apply to NRCS directly if they are located in an approved-project area?

Significant Contribution

Q: What is considered a significant partner contribution? How much "match" is required?

Q: Does a partner have to provide cash, or can other resources be used to meet the "significant contribution?"

Q: Can federal funds be used as part of the contribution?

Q: In calculating the partner contribution to the cost of the project, can partners include the producer’s cost share as part of the significant contribution?

Q: Are EPA 319 funds considered federal funds?

Q: Can state or local tax dollars be used for the significant contribution portion of an RCPP application?

Q: Can administrative costs (direct and indirect expenses) can be included in the partner's contribution?

Q: Can non-NRCS funding that is already being expended on a component of a proposed project "count" as the contribution to the overall accomplishment of the project?

Allocations

Q: How will funds be allocated between CCA's and between states?

Application Details

Q: When are project applications due and when will applicants be notified?

Q: Where should partners send applications?

Q: Are the forms listed on page 6 of the APF required for the pre-proposal phase, or only for full proposals? It appears that some of the forms (SF-424A, SF-424, and SF-424B) in the application package from grants.gov are those listed on page 6 of the APF, but others (Ad-3031 and the lobbying form) are not listed in the APF.

Q: Will selected applications be available for public review?

Q: In the pre-proposal process, how firm does the contribution have to be? Must it be in-hand?

Q: Do partners need letters of support from all partners for the RCPP proposal? What should that letter of support include?

Q: Do all State Conservationists (STC) have to provide letters of support for projects within their state?

Q: How and when does the NRCS determine if an organization or entity has an established history of working cooperatively with producers on agricultural land?

Ranking of Applications

Q: Will the number of partners affect the ranking of a proposal?

Q: Who will rank applications and how will ranking occur?

Q: Will proposals simply be accepted or rejected? Will there be feedback and a chance to correct, subtract, or add elements?

Q: Will USDA try to connect partners if they receive similar proposals?

Q: The Announcement for Program Funding will rank projects based on innovation. What does innovation mean?

Q: Please define projects of national significance.

Partnership Agreements

Q: For a multi-state project, who would handle the coordination from the NRCS side?

Q: What are the reporting and monitoring obligations?

Producer Eligibility - AGI and Program Payment Limitations

Q: Will the Adjusted Gross Income rules affect the eligibility of large farms?

Q: In the new Farm Bill, what is the AGI limitation requirement?

Q: How will the AGI requirement apply for FY14 applications?

Q: In the new farm bill, what is the program payment limitation? How does this differ from last year?

Watershed Authorities - PL-566

Q: Can the watershed planning aspect of the PL - 566 be used to do a study in a particular region or watershed?

Q: Can you provide more detail on the PL 566 component?

Easement Programs

Q: Is there a maximum for an easement payment to a producer?

Q: Is HFRP still authorized under the Forestry Title, and therefore exempt from HEL/W provisions and AGI limitations?

General Answers

A:How can farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners get involved in RCPP?
NRCS supports locally driven projects and encourages landowners and producers to get involved in the design of project proposals. USDA Service Centers, soil and water conservation districts, and local water and irrigation districts may know whether a project is being proposed in your area. Beginning in fall 2014, NRCS will post selected RCPP projects on this Web site. Farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners located within project areas will be able to contact their local USDA Service Center to find out how to apply for financial assistance. The project partner will also conduct outreach to landowners and producers and will be able to provide assistance with applying to NRCS programs. ^ back to top

A.Can an eligible partner compete in all three funding pools (State, National, and CCA) with one project application?
No. An eligible partner submitting a project application must select one funding pool for that application. Each application must identify a single funding pool under which the application will be evaluated. Applicants may only submit one application for a single project proposal. ^ back to top

A:To choose a funding pool, partners should consider the geographic area, agricultural land uses, and resource concerns that will be addressed through the project. A complete description of all three funding pools can be found in the Announcement for Program Funding starting on page 11.

A:Can a partner submit multiple applications? A partner should submit only one application per project. However, applicants may submit more than one application, as long as the proposals are for distinctly different projects. ^ back to top

A: How does an applicant choose which funding pool to select?
Applicants should consider the resource concern for each funding pool and determine which would be the best match. Applicants should also work with their State Conservationist to identify the best funding pool for their projects. ^ back to top

A:Will there be other opportunities for partners to apply for RCPP?
The Announcement of Program Funding posted on May 27, 2014, is for anticipated funding for FY 2014 and 2015. Additional opportunities may be available in fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018. ^ back to top

A: Will the Critical Conservation Areas (CCAs) stay the same in subsequent years?
CCAs are designated by the Secretary of Agriculture for up to five years. The Secretary can withdraw a CCA designation in any given year if the area no longer meets statutory conditions. There can be no more than eight CCAs at any given time.^ back to top

A:How will state funding be determined?
State Conservationists will rank each State Fund Pool proposal using the National and State level ranking criteria. The State Conservationist will submit these to NHQ for final selection with the State funding pool.^ back to top

A:How is RCPP different than the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative or the Mississippi River Basin Initiative?
RCPP uses a competitive application process where partners develop proposals requesting NRCS funding within a specific project area. CBWI and MRBI, which were not authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, received annual appropriations from Congress.^back to top

A:Do projects have to conform to ACEP, EQIP, and other covered programs, or can they be cross-cutting?
Proposals may request funding from one or more of the eligible programs (EQIP, ACEP, CSP, HFRP, and, in CCAs only, watershed authorities) depending on the needs of the project. NRCS Financial Assistance funding must be used within the existing rules and policy for each donor program.^back to top

A:Is there an opportunity to revise existing NRCS conservation practices, or create new ones, assuming new guidance and technical standards were written prior to implementation of the program?
Not specifically through RCPP. Technical standard revision requests should be submitted to the State Technical Committee for review and consideration. ^ back to top

A: Can NRCS share the shape files with Critical Conservation Area boundaries to help partners determine if their project is eligible, or is NRCS viewing these boundaries as somewhat flexible? CCA shape files are available on the website. Follow this path: Home / Programs / Farm Bill / Regional Conservation Partnership Program / RCPP Critical Conservation Areas. Here is a direct link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/?cid=stelprdb1254053 ^ back to top

A: Does a CCA application have to cover the entire CCA area? Does the proposal in the CCA have to be multi-state?
To be considered under the Critical Conservation Area (CCA) funding pool, the project must lie within the boundary of the CCA and address the priority resource concern(s) of the CCA. CCA applications do not need to cover the entire CCA area, but do need to be contained within the CCA and can cover a subset such as a watershed. These projects may cross state boundaries, but can also be located within a single state. A multi-state CCA proposal would not rank higher than single-state CCA proposal based on only these criteria.
^ back to top

A: What happens if a project area is in a county that is partially within the CCA and partially outside the boundary?
A CCA boundary may be flexible to include "fringe" areas when the boundary it is not an established watershed boundary. Should a proposal include an area that appears to include a fringe area and the CCA is not specifically identified by a watershed boundary the agency will be flexible to allow fringe areas to be included in the proposal.
^ back to top

A: Are all of the resource concerns listed in the Announcement for Program Funding considered primary resource concerns? If so, where is the secondary resource concerns listed?
All of the concerns listed in the CCA table, national and state listings are considered primary concerns. Partners may address additional secondary concerns of their choosing. ^ back to top

A:What kind of discretion does NRCS have to make adjustments to regulations? Can NRCS offer different funding accounts for BMP's and change payment rates based on geography, load, and distance from streams?
RCPP allows some flexibility in covered program rules in order to achieve high priority outcomes, such as significant water quality improvement. Partners may request that program adjustments be allowed. NRCS has authority to waive or adjust program rules or regulations but cannot waive or adjust any provision required by statute. "Adjustment of terms" is defined as the rules of a covered program that may be adjusted, which include non-statutory regulatory rules or provisions. See Part I, Section D of the Announcement for Program Funding for examples of rules that may be adjusted. ^ back to top

A: If a program is not currently offered in one area, such as HFRP, can it now be offered in another State?
Yes, as long as the State has identified the need for the program and the partner has demonstrated this need in the proposal. ^ back to top

A: If a proposal covers multiple states, which state's NRCS policies will govern?
NRCS will work with partners to provide consistent rules across State boundaries. This may also be considered as an adjustment to program rules and policies. Partners may request that program adjustments be allowed. NRCS has authority to waive or adjust program rules or regulations but cannot waive or adjust any provision required by statute. ^ back to top

A: Should state projects specifically focus on areas not covered by CCA?
No. State projects should focus on the state's identified resource concerns. ^ back to top

A: How should an application propose to measure outcomes? How will the methods selected to measure the outcomes affect ranking of projects?
NRCS will rely on the partners to measure environmental successes of individual projects and is open to reasonable methods of measurement. NRCS will aggregate and analyze performance data to track trends and monitor progress. Priority is placed on projects that generate near-term results that are measurable from environmental, economic, and social perspectives. ^ back to top

A: Please clarify practice, monitoring, and outcome?
The applicant will need to identify the practices, monitoring methods to track the success of practices, and outcomes, or how the overall project impacts resources. NRCS will evaluate these practices using the ranking criteria provided in the Announcement for Program Funding. ^ back to top

A: Can you describe what is meant by "Existing strong partnerships"?
An applicant should describe their work with a number of strong partners; no applicant is required to already have a history of working with NRCS. ^ back to top

Funding Availability Answers

A: How much money is available nationwide in RCPP?
Nearly $400 million is available in this Announcement for Program Funding. Up to $100 million in mandatory RCPP funding is available per fiscal year. In addition, the donor programs each contribute 7 percent of annual funding (or acres). This total can vary depending on Congressional appropriations and apportionment from the Office of Management and Budget. Donor programs include: EQIP, ACEP, CSP, and HFRP. ^ back to top

A: Is there a minimum and maximum funding amount for an individual proposal?
There is no minimum amount or award. The maximum award amount for any project selected under this announcement cannot exceed $20 million per project over five years. ^ back to top

A: Does NRCS have to obligate the money by Sept 30, 2014?
No. 2014 Farm Bill funds are considered "available until expended." Funding committed under this Announcement for Program Funding will be available for obligations in FY 2015, and funds may be obligated through FY 2019.^ back to top

A: Can proposals be partially funded? Depending upon available funding and agency priorities, NRCS may negotiate a reduced amount of program assistance from what was requested in the application.^back to top

Technical and Financial Assistance Answers

A: Which RCPP funds go to a partner for distribution? Which funds are paid directly to producers?
Partner agreements can include Financial Assistance, Technical Assistance or a combination of both. Financial Assistance funds may go directly to producers through contracts with NRCS or to partners with approved alternative funding arrangements. Technical Assistance funds may go to NRCS field offices or directly to partners, depending on the project proposal and subsequent partner agreement. TA funding can be provided to implement contracts and agreements with producers, landowners, and (for agricultural land easements under ACEP) eligible entities to carry out the purposes of the program.

A: Can partners manage Financial and Technical Assistance for NRCS contracts?
Alternative funding arrangements are limited to multistate water resource agencies or authorities. All entities that enter into an alternative funding arrangement must comply with statutory rules and NRCS policies.

A: What are the barriers to NRCS technical assistance? Will we know what NRCS can provide and what the partner can provide?
It is the applicant's responsibility to study barriers to technical assistance and create a project proposal that meets those needs. Partners are encouraged to work with State Conservationists regarding NRCS Technical Assistance needs for their project proposals.

A: Is outreach and education considered technical assistance?
No. "Technical Assistance" is defined in the Announcement for Program Funding as technical expertise, information, and tools necessary for the conservation of natural resources on land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses. The term includes: (1) technical services provided directly to farmers, ranchers, and other eligible entities, such as conservation planning, technical consultation, and assistance with design and implementation of conservation practices; and (2) technical infrastructure including activities, processes, tools, and agency functions needed to support delivery of technical services, such as technical standards, resource inventories, training, data, technology, monitoring, and effects analyses. Information regarding technical assistance can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cta/.^ back to top

A: Can salary be covered under Technical Assistance for RCPP projects?
RCPP can be used for salary expenses related to Technical Assistance implementing conservation practices; however, NRCS Technical Assistance is not permitted for administrative activities by the partners. ^ back to top

A: Can NRCS Technical Assistance be used for administrative costs?
No. Per statute, NRCS funds may not be used to pay the administrative costs of a partner. Administrative costs are defined in Appendix A as the costs beyond the costs of direct services (direct costs). These are also known as "indirect costs/overhead." Examples include: rent/utilities, space used by staff, copies, phones, IT support, salaries not associated with implementing a conservation practice, etc., that are used by all staff and not directly related to the project. However, administrative costs can be used as partner contribution and should be documented in the full proposal budget in Section V, B, 1, k. ^back to top

A: Can partners provide incentives to entice landowners to participate in the program?
Yes. Partners are required to leverage non-Federal financial or technical resources (direct or in-kind) as their portion of the overall cost of the project, and further incentives for practices is one acceptable way to leverage resources.^ back to top

A: For Financial Assistance included in a selected project with a signed partnership agreement, will partners have final decision on contracts or will program contracts still need to rank out in normal state ranking processes?
Producer contracts will go through the established state ranking process, unless there is an approved alternative funding arrangement. Partners are encouraged to work with NRCS to help develop evaluation criteria for the ranking process used for their projects.

A: If a producer is already implementing an EQIP and/or CSP contract, would that producer be eligible under an RCPP project?
Producers that currently have an active EQIP or CSP contract and are located within a CCA, State, or National Priority area will continue to implement their active contract. Producers may apply for EQIP or CSP funding in an RCPP project area on eligible land not already enrolled in a contract and where a conservation plan has identified one or more natural resource concerns that can be treated under EQIP or enhanced under CSP.

A: Do farmers and ranchers within a CCA or other RCPP designated area remain eligible for program funds apart from the RCPP.
Yes. ^ back to top

A: Does a landowner apply to NRCS directly if they are located in an approved-project area?
Yes. Landowners can apply directly to NRCS for program funds (EQIP, CSP, ACEP, and HFRP) as identified in the approved project proposal, unless alternative funding arrangements have been made. Partners may also facilitate the application process. Landowner contracts under the RCPP agreement will follow normal NRCS contracting policies. If the partner is providing additional financial assistance, the partner would need to establish their unique funding mechanism. ^back to top

Significant Contribution Answers

A:What is considered a significant partner contribution? How much "match" is required?
RCPP does not require a match. However, the statute requires an eligible partner to make a "significant contribution" to the overall cost of the project. A significant contribution can include Financial or Technical Assistance, monitoring, and administrative services. The contribution can be cash or in-kind. Priority will be given to those applications that significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical resources. NRCS has a goal of leveraging an amount equal to the Federal investment; therefore, partner applications that meet or exceeds the amount requested from NRCS (direct or in-kind) will be the most competitive.^back to top

A: Does a partner have to provide cash, or can other resources be used to meet the "significant contribution?"
The "significant contribution" that partners must bring to selected projects can include in-kind contributions, such as monitoring, conservation planning, and producer assistance. Partners may also include administrative services that they provide in the calculation of their contribution to the project. Partners should consider the total benefit they expect to bring to the project.^ back to top

A: In calculating the partner contribution to the cost of the project, can partners include the producer’s cost share as part of the significant contribution?
A: For the ACEP-ALE easement program, the source of the contribution from the entity can include the amount provided by the entity and a landowner. The landowner donation to an easement can count as project proposal significant contribution. For all other non-easement programs, the required landowner cost share does not count a towards the project proposal significant contribution.^ back to top

A: Can federal funds be used as part of the contribution?
Partners may consider funds they have received from other Federal sources as part of their contribution to the project, provided they submit a written commitment from the Federal agency confirming that such Federal funds can be used in conjunction with NRCS funds. Priority, however, will be given to those applications that significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical resources. ^ back to top

A: Are EPA 319 funds considered federal funds?
Partners may consider funds they have received from other Federal sources as part of their contribution to the project, provided they submit a written commitment from the Federal agency confirming that such Federal funds can be used in conjunction with NRCS funds. Priority, however, will be given to those applications that significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical resources.

NRCS has a goal of leveraging an amount equal to the Federal investment; therefore, partner applications that meet or exceeds the amount requested from NRCS (direct or in-kind) will be the most competitive.

EPA CWA 319 funds are considered federal funds for the purpose of the RCPP, but the 40 percent state and non/federal match is not considered a federal contribution for the purposes of determining the significant contribution.

Therefore, projects using 319 funds should clearly identify whether those funds are the EPA federal dollars or the state/non-federal match for purposes of calculating the partner significant contribution. If you have questions about the use of 319 funds as RCPP partner contribution, please contact your state 319 coordinator. The state 319 coordinator has received a letter from EPA that may be used as evidence of EPA’s written commitment confirming that CWA Section 319 funds can be used in conjunction with NRCS funds. ^back to top

A: Can state or local tax dollars be used for the significant contribution portion of an RCPP application?
Any non-federal funding may be considered as the partner contribution in a RCPP proposal. Federal funds may be considered and utilized to implement a project, however the partner receiving other federal funds (financial or technical) must obtain a written commitment from the granting agency that theses federal funds may be used in conjunction with NRCS federal funds. Priority will be given to applications with a significant non-federal investment. ^back to top

A: Can administrative costs (direct and indirect expenses) can be included in the partner's contribution?
Yes. These costs can be included as a partner's contribution. However, per statute, NRCS funds may not be used to pay the administrative costs of a partner. Administrative costs are defined in Appendix A as the costs beyond the costs of direct services (direct costs). These are also known as "indirect costs/overhead." Examples include: rent/utilities, space used by staff, copies, phones, IT support, salaries not associated with implementing a conservation practice, etc., that are used by all staff and not directly related to the project.^back to top

A: Can non-NRCS funding that is already being expended on a component of a proposed project "count" as the contribution to the overall accomplishment of the project?
No. Partner contributions that are expended prior to the award and execution of a partnership agreement may not be considered a partner contribution. Partner contributions provided pursuant the RCPP partner agreement must be implemented after the execution of the partnership agreement, expected in early FY2015. A proposal may build upon an existing project but the significant contribution from the partner must be implement after the signing of the partnership agreement. ^ back to top

Allocations Answers

A: How will funds be allocated between CCA's and between states?
Allocations will be based on the applications received. The level of funding awarded within a CCA or amongst the states will depend on the number of proposals, ranking score, and level of funding requests within the two fund pool. There is no "set" amount designated for any individual CCA or state.^ back to top

Application Details Answers

 

A: When are project applications due and when will applicants be notified?
The pre-proposal applications due date was July 14, 2014 at 5pm EST. Full proposals will be due September 26, 2014. Full proposals will be accepted only from applicants who are notified at the end of the pre-proposal review process that their application has been identified for further evaluation. NRCS will make final project selections based on the review of full proposals by October 17, 2014.^ back to top

A: Where should partners send applications?
All applications must be sent to NRCS National Headquarters. Partners may submit applications using ONE of the three methods described below. Partners should not send applications using more than one method.

  1. The preferred method of submission is by email to RCPP@wdc.usda.gov
  2. Applicants may send a paper copy to:
    Mark A. Rose, Director Financial Assistance Programs Division
    Department of Agriculture
    Natural Resources Conservation Service
    RCPP Application
    P.O. Box 2890
    Washington, D.C. 20013-2890
  3. Applicants may submit the application electronically on Grants.gov.
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A:Are the forms listed on page 6 of the APF required for the pre-proposal phase, or only for full proposals? It appears that some of the forms (SF-424A, SF-424, and SF-424B) in the application package from grants.gov are those listed on page 6 of the APF, but others (Ad-3031 and the lobbying form) are not listed in the APF.
Applications submitted through Grants.gov will require all forms at the Pre-proposal stage; these additional forms do not count against the six page maximum. Applications submitted directly to NRCS via email or direct mail will require those forms at the full proposal stage.^ back to top

A: Will selected applications be available for public review?
NRCS does not anticipate posting all individual applications. Summary data may be available.^ back to top

A: In the pre-proposal process, how firm does the contribution have to be? Must it be in-hand?
No firm commitment for partner contributions is required during the pre-proposal stage. Pre-proposal applicants are asked to estimate the total amount of RCPP funding requested from NRCS and estimate the total amounts provided by the partner. The Announcement for Program Funding recognizes that budget figures are preliminary and that, for the full submission, there may be differences once the details of the budget are developed. ^ back to top

A: Do partners need letters of support from all partners for the RCPP proposal? What should that letter of support include?
Full proposals that include support from additional partners must include a letter or other documentation from all partners detailing the partners' contribution (see page 25 of the Announcement for Program funding). Letters of support may be in addition to the 20-page limit. There is no letter requirement for the pre-proposal.^ back to top

A: Do all State Conservationists (STC) have to provide letters of support for projects within their state?
For a multistate project submitted to either the National or CCA funding pool, at least one STC in the proposed project area must provide a letter of support to be submitted with the full proposal. A letter of support from an STC is required for a state-pool project and must be submitted with the full proposal as well. While there is no letter requirement for the pre-proposal, entities are encouraged to engage the STCs while developing the pre-proposal.^ back to top

A: How and when does the NRCS determine if an organization or entity has an established history of working cooperatively with producers on agricultural land?
Partners should outline this history in their full proposal. Requirements for this can be found on page 25 of the Announcement for Program Funding. ^ back to top

Ranking of Applications Answers

A: Will the number of partners affect the ranking of a proposal?
Participation is a criterion for evaluation, and NRCS seeks to maximize the number of organizations that participate in and contribute to projects. ^ back to top

A: Who will rank applications and how will ranking occur?
All applications will be reviewed internally by NRCS program and technical specialists for conformance with the requirements as established in the Announcement for Program Funding. Applications will be evaluated against four criteria:solutions, contribution, innovation and participation. See Part VI, Section A of the APF for full ranking criteria. CCA and National proposals will be evaluated at NRCS National Headquarters. States will evaluate the State proposals.^ back to top

A: Will proposals simply be accepted or rejected? Will there be feedback and a chance to correct, subtract, or add elements?
All proposals must include the required application elements and be received on time to be considered eligible. Pre-proposals selected for full proposal submission may have the opportunity make adjustments to the full proposal. ^back to top

A: Will USDA try to connect partners if they receive similar proposals?
No. Applicants are encouraged to work with their State Conservationist who can provide advice and guidance on partnering with other entities with a state.^ back to top

Q: The Announcement for Program Funding will rank projects based on innovation. What does innovation mean?
As stated in the APF, NRCS will base 20% of a project score on innovation. Selected projects should integrate multiple conservation approaches to deliver comprehensive and measurable solutions. Strong proposals will include innovation in conservation methods and delivery, including outcome-based performance measures and methods. ^ back to top

A: Please define projects of national significance.
Applications that address multistate resource concerns, and those that provide detail on how specific resource objectives will be monitored to assess outcomes, will be given priority under the national funding pool. National priorities established under this Announcement for Program Funding include water quantity, water quality, soil health, at-risk species habitat and air quality. ^back to top

Partnership Agreements Answers

A: For a multi-state project, who would handle the coordination from the NRCS side?
An agency point of contact will be established for each project, and one state will take the lead on the partnership agreement.^back to top

A: What are the reporting and monitoring obligations?
Reporting and monitoring requirements will be established in the partnership agreement. ^back to top

Producer Eligibility - AGI and Program Payment Limitations Answers

A: Will the Adjusted Gross Income rules affect the eligibility of large farms?
Yes, AGI applies to RCPP participants; however the Secretary may waive AGI if needed to fulfill the purposes of the program. Partners who anticipate making a waiver request should indicate that in their proposal.^back to top

A: In the new Farm Bill, what is the AGI limitation requirement?
The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limitation is $900,000 for both conservation and commodity program payments and benefits. This is a single, total limit, and not subject to the previous flexibility in cases where two thirds of the income was from farm income. NRCS is authorized to waive the AGI requirement for RCPP contracts that would further the purposes of the project. Partners who anticipate making a waiver request should indicate that in their proposal. ^back to top

A: How will the AGI requirement apply for FY14 applications?
AGI requirements do not commence until FY 2015 for most of NRCS conservation programs. However, NRCS does not anticipate signing any partnership agreements or producer contracts until FY 15 so therefore FY15 AGI requirements would apply.
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A: In the new farm bill, what is the program payment limitation? How does this differ from last year?
CSP payment limitation remains $200,000 for contracts entered into from FY14-FY18. EQIP's $300,000 payment limitation and waiver for up to $450,000 was replaced with a $450,000 payment limitation. The 6-year rolling payment limit is replaced with an established limit between FY14-18. The EQIP payment limitations for Organic of $20,000 per year or $80,000 during any 6-year period remain unchanged in the 2014 Act. ^back to top

Watershed Authorities - PL-566 Answers

A: Can the watershed planning aspect of the PL - 566 be used to do a study in a particular region or watershed?
The authority allows for studies to occur, however the emphasis on RCPP is developing partnerships, leveraging non-federal funds, and getting conservation on the ground. This authority is only available within the CCAs. ^back to top

A: Can you provide more detail on the PL 566 component?
NRCS may use the authorities under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act to carry out projects only within the CCAs. Partners have the opportunity to use this authority to address land treatment and flood prevention activities as the Act allows.^back to top

Easment Programs Answers

A: Is there a maximum for an easement payment to a producer?
No, there is no payment limitation for easements. Easement payments will be determined based upon the requirements for the covered easement programs in that state. The easement evaluation method will be the same for RCPP as utilized in the state for non-RCPP easements. EQIP and CSP will maintain their respective program payment limitation. ^ back to top

Q: Is HFRP still authorized under the Forestry Title, and therefore exempt from HEL/W provisions and AGI limitations?
HFRP is still an authorized program. States with approved project areas can continue implementing on existing enrollments. In the 2014 Farm Bill HFRP remains exempt from HEL, Wetlands Compliance and AGI provisions. RCPP allows for HRFP activities ^ back to top

 

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