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.
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.
Funding for RCPP is allocated to projects in three different categories.
Critical Conservation Areas
For projects in eight geographic areas chosen by Secretary. These receive 35 percent of funding. Learn more.
For nationwide and multistate projects. These receive 40 percent of funding. Learn more.
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.
2015 RCPP Projects
BMP Implementation for Nutrient & Sediment Loss Reduction in Macon County, Illinois: This project addresses nutrient and sediment loss on ag lands in the Sangamon River Watershed. The project will measure outcomes, documenting the number of practices installed on the land and estimating pollutant load reductions for each site using EPA’s Region 5 Model. The Macon County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and its partners will determine the effectiveness of newer edge-of-field practices and their ability to reduce nitrate loss through subsurface drainage. NRCS awarded this project $600,000 in EQIP financial and technical assistance funding over the 5-year period.
Conservation Cropping Systems - Improving Soil Health: Assessment, Comprehensive Planning and Implementation on IL Target Farms: This project addresses soil health, water quality and soil erosion. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, along with partners; the Illinois Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD), 97 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), and other ag entities will develop approximately 100 “Soil Health Model Farms” throughout Illinois. SWCDs will provide technical assistance, recruit farmers, hold regional or small group orientation meetings, conduct transect surveys, collect data, and more. NRCS awarded this project $1,600,000 in EQIP financial and technical assistance funding over the 5-year period.
Shorebird Conservation Acreage via Drainage Water Runoff Control (SCARC): This project, led by the University of Illinois, will install Drainage Water Management (DWM) in ag fields across portions of Central Illinois. This area, a primary stopover location for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, hosts nearly the entire population of American Golden –Plover (Pluvialis dominica), a species of conservation concern. The project uses DWM to provide temporary habitat for these migrating species. Project counties are Champaign, Christian, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, and, Vermilion. NRCS awarded this project $500,000 in EQIP financial and technical assistance funding over the 5-year period.
Illinois priorities are:
- Water Quality
- Soil Health
- Soil Erosion
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:
- At the producer's request, a partner may submit the application for participation in a selected project area
- Directly at their local USDA Service Center in a selected project area
The partnership agreement defines the scope of the project, including:
- Eligible activities to be implemented
- Potential agricultural or nonindustrial private forest operation affected
- Local, state, multi-state or other geographic area covered
- 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.
RCPP Fact Sheet (PDF, 391KB)
To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted
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