Enhanced funding option aims to increase flexibility and delivery of conservation innovation
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest up to $50 million in fiscal year 2020 to fund a unique, partner-led approach to addressing natural resource concerns at local, regional and landscape scales.
Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA), NRCS is authorized to fund up to 15 projects where partners will be given greater liberty to manage an RCPP project and the associated relationships with participating producers and landowners.
“We’re excited to co-invest with partners in ways that more fully leverage the flexibilities of the RCPP program,” said Matthew Lohr, chief of NRCS. “These alternative funding arrangements allow partners to propose solutions to conservation challenges that might be a little more out of the box than we’ve been able to try before. It’s an opportunity for our partners to step up and deliver conservation in new and perhaps more efficient and effective ways.”
NRCS will execute AFAs through agreements with eligible lead partners. Lead partners will be responsible for contracting directly with eligible producers and landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.
NRCS is looking for AFA project proposals now through May 18. Proposals must be submitted through the RCPP portal at https://nrcs-sites.secure.force.com/. Information about this request for proposals is available on grants.gov.
While AFA projects were authorized under the 2014 farm bill, the 2018 farm bill enhanced the AFA provision and authorized NRCS to award up to 15 AFA projects annually. Through AFAs, approved project partners can work directly with farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners to carry out RCPP projects, as opposed to implementing projects through NRCS producer contracts and landowner easements.
The farm bill statute highlights some project types that may be particularly suited to AFAs:
• Projects that use innovative approaches to leverage the federal investment in conservation;
• Projects that deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach; and,
• Projects that seek large-scale infrastructure investment that generate conservation benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners.
Farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners access RCPP through partner entities, like conservation districts, producer associations, water districts, state or local governments, American Indian tribes, institutions of higher education and nongovernmental organizations.
RCPP projects range from a minimum of $250,000 to a maximum of $10 million.
For more information on the RCPP program and how to apply, visit the RCPP website at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/rcpp/. ❖