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USDA Announces $235 Million Available for Innovative New Conservation Partnerships

Local Coalitions Can Now Apply for Second Round of Funding to Improve Soil Health, Preserve Clean Water, Combat Drought, and Protect Wildlife Habitat: Pre-Proposals Due July 8th

COLCHESTER, Vermont, May 4, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today 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 USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). USDA is now accepting pre-proposals for the second round of funding for RCPP. The deadline is July 8th, 2015. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve natural resources on private lands. For proposals in Vermont, resource priorities include: soil erosion, soil quality, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat.

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.

The RCPP program helps USDA build on already-record enrollment in conservation programs, with over 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide. “This is a new, innovative approach to conservation,” said Vermont NRCS State Conservationist Vicky Drew. “RCPP allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for the resource concerns here in Vermont. 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.”

This past January, Jason Weller, Chief of NRCS, and Governor Peter Shumlin, announced that Vermont was awarded $16 million in national RCPP funds to improve Lake Champlain’s water quality. This funding was part of more than $370 million in federal funding going to over 100 high-impact projects across all 50 states.

In addition, USDA announced $394 million in awards in the first round of state-funded RCPP applications (which represented two years’ worth of funding for fiscal years 2014 and 2015). This included $800,000 in funding to the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts (VACD) to assist small farm operators in the development of nutrient management plans. The project will help improve water quality by reducing phosphorus and other nutrient loading from small livestock farm operations in the Lake Champlain Basin and beyond.

Today's announcement marks the beginning of the second round of funding being made available through RCPP. The program 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.

RCPP pre-proposals must be received by July 8. View the announcement for program funding here.

Visit the Vermont RCPP website for more details.