Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funds of up to $260 million for partner proposals to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The money is available through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) innovative Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Those applying for the funds must be able to match the money with private or local dollars.
Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP investments of nearly $600 million have already driven 199 partner-led projects. The program leverages local leadership to establish partnerships that can include private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profits and other non-government partners to work with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners on landscape- and watershed-scale conservation solutions that work best for their region. This will be the third round of funding through RCPP, helping USDA build on record enrollment in all voluntary conservation programs, with more than 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.
“Across the country, locally-driven efforts are having a positive effect on conservation and production,” said Vilsack. “RCPP serves as a valuable vehicle for matching federal investment and private capital to advance natural resource conservation and support agricultural production. Partners in the 84 new high-impact projects we announced in February are matching USDA funding more than two-to-one for a combined investment of over $720 million.”
“We recognize the growing interest in leveraging private capital markets to foster impact investments in conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry,” said Vilsack. “For this new round, we hope to see even more applications that support the development of environmental markets and conservation finance projects.”
Proposals for the RCPP Fiscal Year 2017 are now being accepted. Pre-propsoals are due by May 10.