CHAMPAIGN — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which helps partners develop and implement unique conservation solutions that engage farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect on publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Through RCPP, we co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “We look forward to making available this improved, more flexible program to partners.”
State Conservationist Ivan Dozier welcomes input on the program, which has been successful in Illinois. “This program has been a great one for our agriculture and conservation partners here in Illinois. We want to hear what you like about it, what new ideas you have, or how we can make RCPP even better for solving problems in a collaborative way,” Dozier added.
The 2018 Farm Bill made RCPP a stand-alone program with its own dedicated funding, simplifying rules for partners and producers. Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill reduces the number of funding pools and emphasizes partner reporting of conservation outcomes.
The updated program also expands flexibility for alternative funding arrangements with partners and availability of watershed program authorities to projects outside critical conservation areas.
NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through April 13 on the Federal Register at www.federalregister.gov/.
Electronic comments must be submitted through regulations.gov under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0012. All written comments received will be publicly available on regulations.gov as well. NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.
Applying for RCPP
Eligible partners include private industry, non-governmental organizations, state and local governments, water districts and universities. Leveraging of NRCS funding is a key principle of RCPP. Partners are expected to make value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding.
NRCS will make available $300 million for projects in fiscal 2020. The agency anticipates making the first alternative funding arrangement (AFA) funding announcement in March, with the fiscal 2020 RCPP Classic announcement following in summer 2020. For more information, visit the RCPP webpage at www.nrcs.usda.gov/.
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