Skip Navigation

News Release

USDA Investing $75 million in Partner-Led Projects with Focus on Climate-Smart Ag, Equity in Program Delivery

$2.7 Million Awarded in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, Oct. 18, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest nearly $75 million for 15 partner-led projects to address natural resource concerns on private lands. This year, projects funded by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) focus on climate-smart agriculture and forestry and other conservation priorities as well as improving access for historically underserved producers.

“The AFA component of RCPP is designed for partners who are thinking outside of the box to address some of our most pressing natural resource challenges,” said Dr. Terron Hillsman, State Conservationist in Maryland. “RCPP is a testament to the power of partnership. By combining local expertise, partner resources, federal assistance and a shared commitment to conservation we can advance critical priorities and innovative solutions that are key to addressing the climate crisis.”  

In Maryland, the Sand County Foundation (SCF) and the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) will receive $2,739,000 for the Maryland Clean Water Commerce Outcomes Project. The program will help scale up Maryland’s new pay-for-performance program and expand access to more producers, including historically underserved producers. Many of the practices and systems implemented by farmers to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will have climate co-benefits.

“Maryland’s Clean Water Commerce Program is one of the most important state-funded conservation programs in the country because it is set up to pay farmers for water quality outcomes they produce, not how they produce them,” said Timothy Male, Executive Director of EPIC. “We are thrilled to receive this grant from USDA to use the same program structure to reach even more farmers and forestland owners.”

“We need to empower more farmers and forestland owners to be part of the solution. This funding from USDA does just that to achieve cleaner water,” said Sand County Foundation President, Kevin McAleese.

SCF and EPIC are also working with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on the project.

“These project partners bring unique solutions to address water quality concerns in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” said Dr. Hillsman. “We are excited to continue these partnerships to enhance conservation efforts throughout Maryland.”

As part of this year’s project selections, NRCS prioritized projects that supported smart strategies on working lands to help sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Several projects also had concrete plans for engaging producers from historically underserved communities.

Through RCPP, NRCS works with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to advance conservation priorities on the ground. AFA projects are partner-designed and partner-led RCPP projects that propose innovative uses of program funding to achieve conservation benefits. Through AFA projects, lead partners are responsible for contracting directly with eligible farmers, ranchers and other landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.

For details on all of the awarded projects throughout the United States and to view an interactive map, visit the RCPP website.

More about RCPP AFAs

Farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can participate in RCPP AFA through lead partners and can contact local service cen for more information. 

First authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. Partners are expected to offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding in an amount equal or greater to the USDA investment.  RCPP projects range from a minimum of $250,000 to a maximum of $10 million.