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News Release

USDA/Partners Usher in New Era in Conservation

USDA Press Release
Natural Resources Conservation Service
675 US Courthouse
801 Broadway
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
Voice 615-277-2533
Email: jeanne.eastham@tn.usda.gov
Web: http://www.tn.usda.gov
Contact: Jeanne Eastham, Public Affairs Specialist
Phone: 615.686.8313

New conservation initiative goes beyond traditional government efforts

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

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” Vilsack said. “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.”

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 streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs (the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion) into one.

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.

“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 Tennessee,” said John Rissler, Acting NRCS State Conservationist in Tennessee.

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. 

“This is an example of government at its best — streamlining multiple programs into one more effective effort, providing flexible tools, and connecting local citizens and organizations with resources that best address their priorities, protect and improve their quality of life, and propel economic growth,” Vilsack said.

MRBI WatershedThe 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. Tennessee is in the Mississippi River Basin. The Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles to the Gulf of Mexico; providing drinking water, food, industry and recreation for millions of people; and home to over 325 bird species. With this Critical Conservation Area designation, USDA will build on existing strong partnerships in the 13-state area to continue to reduce nutrient and sediment loading to water bodies and improve efficiency in using water supplies. This designation builds on momentum already established by NRCS’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative. With more than 600 partners engaged throughout the area, farmers and ranchers have treated over 800,000 acres with systems of practices intended to avoid, control and trap nutrient and sediment run-off, and improve irrigation efficiency.

For proposals in Tennessee, priorities include:
 

  • Soil Quality Degradation
  • Soil Erosion Excess Water
  • Water Quality Degradation
  • Degraded Plant Condition
  • Air Quality
  • Livestock Production Limitation
  • Inadequate Habitat for Fish and Wildlife
  • Insufficient Water

For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit NRCS Tennessee’s webpage.

“This program is a prime example of how government can serve as a catalyst for private investment in rural America,” Rissler said.

The announcement of program funding can be found here. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are dueSept. 26.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStartedor local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.

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