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.
National Project Project Name: Smithfield Gro Sustainable Grain Supply Chains
Participating Counties: Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Winnebago, Wright
Lead Partner: Environmental Defense Fund (16 Partners)
Funding Amount: $1,080,000
Contacts: Shelby Shelton (Environmental Defense Fund), 919-881-2917, email@example.com or Dawn Williamson (Smithfield Foods), 910-385-6186, firstname.lastname@example.org
Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, is collaborating with the Environmental Defense Fund and others to address nutrient management and soil health in the company's grain supply chain. Smithfield Gro is a voluntary program that provides agronomic assistance and conservation incentives to grain growers in the company's sourcing region. This RCPP launches new efforts in Iowa and expands efforts in North Carolina. The project area includes five northern Iowa counties: Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto, Winnebago, and Wright. These counties were selected based on both scientific, business, and relationship criteria.
National Project Project Name: Driftless Area Habitat for the Wild & Rare Phase 2
Participating Counties: Allamakee, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard, Jackson, Jones, Winneshiek
Lead Partner: Trout Unlimited (46 Partners)
Funding Amount: $9,203,000
Contacts: Jeff Hastings, 608-606-4158
The Driftless Area (SE Minnesota, SW Wisconsin, NE Iowa, NW Illinois) features steep valleys, sandstone bluffs, and more than 600 unique spring-fed creeks and ridges once covered in prairie and scattered oaks. This ancient landscape supports a variety of plants and animals, including abundant populations of native fish found in the high concentration of cold-water streams. Through the RCPP, this project offers agricultural producers on-farm conservation practices based on identified resource concerns. Planned conservation practices to address resource concerns must be located within the project area to be eligible for financial assistance.
State Project Project Name: Innovative Conservation Agriculture
Lead Partner: Allamakee Soil and Water Conservation District (4 Partners)
Funding Amount: $646,670 Contact: Sara Berges, 563-568-2246
Through the Innovative Conservation Agriculture Project, the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation will address water quality and soil quality/health concerns in Allamakee County. Specifically, the project will support implementation of cover crops and no-till in conjunction with manure application, the conversion of marginal cropland to pasture, and the addition of a small grain crop to a corn-soybean system, preferably with the inclusion of cover crops in the rotation. These practices will help to minimize soil erosion and nutrient runoff. Through the project, eligible farmers will receive financial assistance to implement conservation practices, and the project will address the need to educate producers and landowners about how different practices affect soil health and long-term productivity.
National Project Project Name: Fox River Water Quality Project
Lead Partner: Davis Soil and Water Conservation District (8 Partners)
Funding Amount: $900,000
Contact: Felicia Campbell, 641-664-2600, x304
The Fox River Water Quality Project, in its 18th year, is one of the longest running watershed projects in Iowa. The conservation project will continue to improve the health of the Fox River by addressing water quality, conservation, protection and development of natural resources using voluntary programs that provide economic opportunity. The eight partners, led by the Davis County Soil and Water Conservation District, will help producers improve water quality through conservation practices like installing grade stabilization structures, water and sediment control basins, tile outlet terraces and cover crops.
State Project Project Name: Upper Cedar Watershed Urban-Rural Partnership
Lead Partner: City of Charles City
Funding Amount: $1.6 Million
The Urban-Rural Partnership proposes to leverage existing efforts in the Rock Creek Watershed, where a Farmer Advisory Board is working with local partners to advance practice implementation according to goals set in the Rock Creek Watershed Management Plan. The project will implement conservation practices such as cover crops, bioreactors, and saturated buffers and will also conduct outreach activities through partners to increase adoption of practices.
National Projects Project Name: Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership
Lead Partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
Funding Amount: $9.5 Million
The Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership has assembled over forty partners and $38 Million in non-federal funds to build an innovative public-private collaboration aimed at advancing a science-based, non-regulatory approach to reducing nutrient loss and improving water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species. The partnership has brought together diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors committed to improving water quality in alignment with the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The geographic focus is Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, with an emphasis on priority watersheds within Iowa. This proposal seeks to improve water quality through building bridges among the public, private, agriculture and environmental sectors and rural, urban, point source and non-point source communities as well as all segments of the agricultural supply chain to foster greater collaboration, improved coordination, increased alignment and more effective conservation delivery. This proposal merges traditional approaches to deliver conservation through scaling up conservation planning and conservation practices with a non-traditional, highly innovative precision agriculture platform integration component that will lead to greater practice adoption and improved conservation outcomes.
Project Name: Improving Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies
Lead Partner: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Funding Amount: $6 Million
Our partnership will restore, manage and conserve wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies on agricultural and tribal lands using four main strategies: conservation planning and assessment; habitat improvement and best management practices; building an adequate seed supply for milkweed and nectar plants; and, enhancing organizational coordination and capacity. To provide the greatest conservation outcomes, the project will focus work within two NRCS Critical Conservation Areas: Prairie Grasslands Region and Mississippi River Basin. Targeted areas will be identified through a US Geological Survey-led initiative examining fine-scale opportunities for the restoration of milkweed and other pollinator plants. This project will contribute to national goals in terms of habitat and increase the number of monarch butterflies. This in turn will represent the best opportunity to avoid future regulations related to monarch butterflies from being imposed on farmers and ranchers in the future.
Project Name: Middle Cedar Partnership Project
Lead Partner: City of Cedar Rapids
Funding Amount: $2.1 Million
Maps:Watersheds (PDF) | State Perspective (PDF) Contact: Steve Hershner, 319-286-5281
Led by the City of Cedar Rapids, the Middle Cedar Partnership Project will focus on working with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to install best management practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands and saturated buffers to help improve water quality, water quantity and soil health in the Cedar River Watershed. There is an urgent need to address increasing concentrations of nitrates and extreme flood events in the Cedar River. This project will lay the foundation for needed improvements, and bring together a diverse group of conservation partners.
Led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship – Division of Soil Conservation, the Iowa Targeted Demonstration Watersheds Partnership Project will focus on the adoption of conservation practices that are most beneficial to reducing nutrient loading in focus watersheds. These watersheds were targeted because of their high nutrient losses as shown by monitoring data and watershed analyses. The project is directly tied to implementation of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, developed in response to the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force goal of 45 percent nutrient reduction to the Gulf. The nine watersheds will serve as models for future work, and will focus on farmer-to-farmer outreach and education.
Project Name: Regional Grassland Bird and Grazing Land Enhancement Initiative
Lead Partner: Missouri Department of Conservation
Funding Amount: $5 Million Map: State of Iowa Perspective(PDF) Contact:Lisa Potter, 573-522-4115, x 3142
The goal of this project is to create and implement management strategies that integrate habitat needs of grassland-dependent birds on grazing lands, maintain the tall grass prairie ecosystem, and enroll high quality grasslands into contracts. The project will target at-risk bird species habitat on pastures and agricultural lands, enhance water and soil quality, and improve plant productivity limited by undesirable invasive plant species. NRCS is providing $5 million for this project through RCPP and MDC and other partners are providing $10 million. Parts of Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are also included in this project.
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.
Iowa's priorities are:
Water Quality - Including ground and surface water
Soil Health/Soil Quality
Retention of Grasslands/Forestlands and other sensitive areas
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.