Skip Navigation

News Release

New USDA Conservation Initiative Focuses on Public-Private Partnerships

Molly McDonough

Harrisburg, PA, May 27, 20The new Regional Conservation Partnership Program focuses on partnerships.14 – 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.

“Through this entirely new approach to conservation, USDA will give partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations,” said Vilsack.

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 previous Farm Bill 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, state and local governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. 

“This program empowers local decision making by bringing together conservation groups, state and local governments, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and others to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Pennsylvania,” said Denise Coleman, NRCS state conservationist.

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. The Chesapeake Bay watershed and Great Lakes Region are the selected critical conservation areas in Pennsylvania. USDA will build on existing strong partnerships in these watershed to design and help fund innovative projects to address conservation needs while supporting rural economies, protecting wildlife habitat and ultimately improving water quality.

For proposals in Pennsylvania, priorities include: soil erosion, water quality, air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quantity. For more state-specific information on RCPP, visit the Pennsylvania NRCS webpage.

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

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit