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News Release

New Opportunities Available for Partner-Led Conservation Projects

Richmond, Va., March 22, 2021 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is once again seeking to harness the power of partnerships to explore nontraditional solutions to today’s stewardship challenges. If your organization has a great idea for a new local or regional collaboration, we can offer more flexibility than ever to work directly with agricultural producers to get practices on the ground.

Offered through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) can be used to develop new conservation approaches that could not otherwise be effectively implemented through the classic RCPP. Eligible partners such as producer associations and cooperatives, state and local governments, educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations and tribal nations can receive funds in the form of grants executed through agreements.

Suitable projects include those that use innovative approaches to leverage the federal investment in conservation, deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach or include a large-scale infrastructure investment that generates conservation benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners. Proposals are evaluated on their:

  • Impact for addressing natural resource concerns

  • Partner contributions for leveraging non-USDA funding.

  • Innovation to deliver new conservation approaches, technologies and partnerships.

  • Management experience in project administration, outreach and technical assistance.

“RCPP projects have had a significant impact on conservation in the Commonwealth, bringing in additional funds and technical resources for our Virginia farmers and landowners, enhancing and building new partnerships and providing social and economic benefits for rural economies,” said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, state conservationist. “Since 2015, Virginia has obligated $9.2 million for 438 contracts tied to six RCPP projects. This latest funding opportunity could be used to build upon our past successes by working more closely with partners on a watershed scale.”

NRCS is offering $75 million this year for up to 15 projects with the majority of the funding going to proposals focused on forestry and climate-smart agriculture (i.e., carbon markets and innovative technology). The agency also strongly encourages submissions addressing the conservation needs of urban farmers in metropolitan areas and supporting access to healthy fresh food in historically underserved communities.

“To score well, proposals should include strategies for partner-led outreach. education and technical assistance,” RCPP Program Coordinator Stacey Bradshaw said. “Farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners apply for RCPP projects through the partners who must have a mechanism in place to directly contract with eligible producers and landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.”

NRCS is accepting AFA project proposals through the RCPP portal at https://nrcs-sites.secure.force.com/ now through May 28. More details on this request for proposals is available on grants.gov. A list of last year’s awarded projects can be found here.