May 05, 2015

USDA to Invest Up To $235 Million in Conservation Partnerships

Local coalitions can now apply for funding to improve soil health, preserve clean water, combat drought and protect wildlife habitat

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of up to $235 million to improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the newest conservation tool of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

RCPP, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. This will be the second round of projects funded through RCPP. The RCPP program helps USDA build on already-record enrollment in conservation programs, with more than 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on more than 400 million acres nationwide.

"This is a new, innovative approach to conservation," Vilsack said. "This initiative allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for their communities. These public-private partnerships can have an impact that's well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, and other industries."

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement at a signing ceremony in Denver for the Colorado Pressurized Small Hydropower Partnership Project, a 2015-funded project that focuses on water quantity resource concerns in Colorado. The project, which will receive $1.8 million in NRCS support alongside local partner investments, will facilitate the conversion of flood irrigation systems to more resource-efficient pressurized irrigation systems with integrated hydropower.

In January, USDA delivered first-round funding of $394 million to 115 high-impact projects, including the Colorado project, across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

This announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life.

USDA is now accepting proposals for RCPP. Pre-proposals are due July 8, 2015. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

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