Cover photo for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Closed October 31, 2022


About

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.

There are two types of national funding announcements under RCPP.

  1. RCPP Classic is the standard version of the program where NRCS and the lead partner both oversee contracts with producers and landowners engaged in RCPP activities.

  2. RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements are partner-led projects that propose innovative use of federal assistance to achieve conservation benefits that are not possible under the RCPP Classic construct.

RCPP funds are distributed by project. See the list of 2021 projects here.

The New RCPP:

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/Multistate funding pool.

  • Emphasis on project outcomes—all RCPP projects must now develop and report on their environmental outcomes.

Successful RCPP projects embody the following core principles:

  • Impact: RCPP applications must propose effective and compelling solutions that address one or more natural resource priorities to help solve natural resource challenges. Partners are responsible for evaluating a project's impact and results.

  • Partner Contributions: Partners are responsible for identifying any combination of cash and in-kind value-added contributions to leverage NRCS's RCPP investments. It is NRCS's goal that partner contributions at least equal the NRCS investment in an RCPP project. Substantive partner contributions are given priority consideration as part of the RCPP application evaluation criteria. 

  • Innovation: NRCS seeks projects that integrate multiple conservation approaches, implement innovative conservation approaches or technologies, build new partnerships, and effectively take advantage of program flexibilities to deliver conservation solutions.

  • Partnerships and Management: Partners must have experience, expertise, and capacity to manage the partnership and project, provide outreach to producers, and quantify the environmental outcomes of an RCPP project. RCPP ranking criteria give preference to applicants that meaningfully engage historically underserved farmers and ranchers.

RCPP Funding:

RCPP funding is divided evenly among two funding pools. 

  • Critical Conservation Areas: For projects in eight geographic areas chosen by the Secretary of Agriculture. These receive 50 percent of funding. Learn more about RCPP Critical Conservation Areas.

  • State/Multistate: For projects in a single state or across several states. These receive 50 percent of funding.

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

  • Land rentals

  • Entity-held easements

  • United States-held easements

  • Public works/watersheds

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.


Eligibility

Partner Eligibility:

Individual producers are not directly eligible for either RCPP program, however, they can apply as part of a producer organization. Producers seeking to carry out conservation activities consistent with a RCPP project in the project’s geographic area can apply directly to NRCS.

Entities that are classified as one of the following organizational types can serve as an eligible RCPP partner:

  • An agricultural or silvicultural producer association or other group of producers.

  • A State or unit of local government.

  • An Indian Tribe.

  • A farmer cooperative.

  • A water district, irrigation district, acequia, rural water district or association, or other organization with specific water delivery authority to agricultural producers.

  • A municipal water or wastewater treatment entity.

  • An institution of higher education.

  • An organization or entity with an established history of working cooperatively with producers on agricultural land, as determined by NRCS, to address—

    • Local conservation priorities related to agricultural production, wildlife habitat development, or nonindustrial private forest land management; or

    • Critical watershed-scale soil erosion, water quality, sediment reduction, or other natural resource issues.

  • An entity, such as an Indian Tribe, State government, local government, or a nongovernmental organization that has a farmland or grassland protection program that purchases agricultural land easements

  • A conservation district.

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.

Land Eligibility:

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.


Resources


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Details

Deadline

October 31, 2022

Organization

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Financial Instrument

Easement, Grant, Cost Share

Minimum Award Amount

$250,000

Maximum Award Amount

$10,000,000

Total Program Funding

$360,000,000

Image Credit

USDA NRCS Montana


Updated September 9, 2022

This information was gathered from public sources. Ambrook is not responsible for or able to affect the results of any financial programs listed, nor are they responsible for any incorrect information that is listed or is on the hyperlinked external sites. All information is subject to change.

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