The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address.
The 2018 Farm Bill made a number of substantial changes to RCPP:
RCPP is now a standalone program with its own funding--$300 million annually. Moving forward, landowners and ag producers will enter into RCPP contracts and RCPP easements.
Enhanced Alternative Funding Arrangement provision—NRCS may award up to 15 AFA projects, which are more grant-like and rely more on partner capacity to implement conservation activities.
Three funding pools reduced to two—the National pool was eliminated. Partners must apply to either the Critical Conservation Area (CCA) or State/Multi-state funding pool.
Emphasis on project outcomes—all RCPP projects must now develop and report on their environmental outcomes.
RCPP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application batching dates or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. The following projects have an application signup batching and ranking date of Oct. 22, 2021, for the first round of FY 2022 funding:
Project: Cedar River Source Water Partnership
Lead Partner: City of Cedar Rapids
NRCS Funding Amount: $9,497,786
Partner Contributions: $12,347,150
The Cedar River Source Water Partnership (CRSWP) is a collaboration among communities and agricultural partners to improve water quality, mitigate the risk of flooding, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. Project partners plan to target middle and late adopters of conservation practices by engaging with ag retailers and independent agronomists. Land O'Lakes' Truterra Insights Engine will be used to estimate the project's conservation and economic outcomes.
Project: Floyd River Water Quality Partnership
Lead Partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
NRCS Funding Amount: $3,200,000
Partner Contributions: $3,360,000
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will address water quality in a 577,000-acre watershed by helping farmers plant cover crops and implement nutrient management practices. Coordinated on-farm partnerships with input suppliers, farmers, and the livestock industry will deliver integrated grazing and edge-of-field practices demonstrations. USDA's Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework tool will be used to target project activities to critical lands.
Project: SE Iowa Watershed Partnership
Lead Partner: SE Iowa Watershed Partnership
NRCS Funding Amount: $9,090,909
Partner Contributions: $12,757,577
The SE Iowa Watershed Partnership, composed of 20 partner organizations, will accelerate adoption of nutrient management and mitigation practices and systems in 15 counties. The project supports the goals of Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy and will use RCPP flexibilities to offer a range of incentives to attract producer adoption. Project partners will tailor targeting plans for priority locations based on existing data and analyses.
Iowa RCPP Projects - Selected 2020
Project: Soil and Water Outcomes Fund 2021/2022
Lead Partner: Ag Technology and Environmental Stewardship Foundation
NRCS Funding Amount: $8,970,130
Partner Contributions: $3,740,000
The Soil and Water Outcomes project will expand the implementation of on-farm conservation practices that create both water quality and carbon sequestration outcomes by making pay for performance payments to participating producers for independently verified environmental outcomes. The goal is to utilize a pay for performance approach to achieve significant conservation outcomes during the project period. Through this project, the project team expects to highlight the advantages of pay for performance approaches to conservation and establish a framework for that will continue to leverage NRCS continued investment in pay for performance projects and programs.
Project: North Raccoon Partnership for Soil and Water
Lead Partner: Iowa Soybean Association (12 Partners)
NRCS Funding Amount: $9,804,703
Partner Contributions: $16,024,022
Iowa Soybean Association, in collaboration with a diverse set of partners including ag retailers, Federal and State agencies and the City of Des Moines, will take a watershed approach to improving soil health and water quality in a high-profile watershed located in central Iowa. The partnership will take an innovative approach of deploying conservation staff in ag retailer locations to minimize barriers to producer participation. Targeted practices include no-till, cover crops, denitrifying bioreactors, saturated buffers and wetland restoration.
Project: Turkey River Watershed Partnership Project
Lead Partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
NRCS Funding Amount: $3,000,000
Partner Contributions: $3,903,085
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will deliver a comprehensive outreach, planning and implementation approach to spur the long-term adoption of management and structural practices to reduce water quality degradation in the Turkey River Watershed. The project partners estimate that producer efforts under the project will keep in reductions of almost 400,000 pounds of nitrogen and over 11,000 pounds of nitrogen out of local waterways.
Project: Iowa Systems Approach to Conservation Drainage Lead Partner: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
NRCS Funding Amount: $10,000,000
Partner Contributions: $22,537,913
The Iowa Systems Approach to Conservation Drainage (ISACD) project brings together a diverse partnership (including PepsiCo, Heartland Co-op, the Nature Conservancy and Nutrien Ag Solutions) to demonstrate a systems approach to improved farm profitability and sustainability on some of the most intenstively farmed land in Iowa. The project supports implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) and aims to help producers plant nearly 150,000 acres of cover crops and install 50 denitrifying bioreactors and saturated wetlands, among other water quality, flood control and source water protection practices.
Iowa RCPP Projects - Selected 2018
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.National Projects
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.
Who is Eligible
Eligible organizations interested in partnering with NRCS on conservation projects can develop applications for the RCPP competition. The lead partner for an RCPP project is the entity that submits an application, and if selected for an award is ultimately responsible for collaborating with NRCS to successfully complete an RCPP project.
See the RCPP funding announcement for details about what types of organizations are eligible to apply.
Producer and Landowner Eligibility
Once NRCS selects a project and executes an RCPP agreement with a lead partner, agricultural producers may participate in an RCPP project in one of two ways. First, producers may engage with project partners and delegate a willing partner to act as their representative in working with NRCS. Second, producers seeking to carry out conservation activities consistent with a RCPP project in the project’s geographic area can apply directly to NRCS.
RCPP projects must be carried out on agricultural or nonindustrial private forest land or associated land on which NRCS determines an eligible activity would help achieve conservation benefits (i.e., improved condition of natural resources resulting from implementation of conservation activities).
Eligible conservation activities may be implemented on public lands when those activities will benefit eligible lands as determined by NRCS and are included in the scope of an approved RCPP project.
RCPP Conservation Activities
RCPP projects may include a range of on-the-ground conservation activities implemented by farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. These activities include:
Land management/land improvement/restoration practices
United States-held easements
A single RCPP project application can propose to employ any combination of these eligible activity types as part of an RCPP project. For more details about eligible RCPP conservation activities, please see the RCPP funding announcement.