USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced the availability of up to $260 million nationwide for partner proposals to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.
USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2017 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding. Pre-proposals are due May 10, says Marty Adkins, assistant state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa. Through the RCPP, applicants must be able to match the federal award with private or local funds.
Partners in these projects must match NRCS funding
One of Iowa’s 2016 high-impact projects announced in February, the Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership, is one of the largest RCPP projects in the country with 40 partners. It far exceeds the NRCS $9.5 million award by contributing $38 million to build an innovative public-private collaboration aimed at reducing nutrient loss and improving water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species.
Thus, partners in the project announced in February are matching NRCS funding four-to-one for a total investment of about $47.5 million in priority watersheds in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. “The Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership brings together the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship and around 40 other public and private partners to advance a science-based, non-regulatory approach for reducing nutrient loss and improving water quality,” says Adkins.
Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP investments of nearly $600 million have already driven 199 partner-led projects, including eight projects in Iowa the past two years. The program leverages local leadership to establish partnerships that can include private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, nonprofits and other non-government partners to work with farmers 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
The fiscal year 2017 proposals will be the third round of funding through the Rural Conservation Partnership Program, helping USDA build on record enrollment in all voluntary conservation programs, with more than 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on more than 400-million acres nationwide.
“We recognize the growing interest in leveraging private capital markets to foster impact investments in conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry,” says Kurt Simon, NRCS state conservationist in Iowa. “For this new round, we hope to see even more applications that support the development of environmental markets and conservation finance projects.”