USDA and partners invest $720 million in conservation projects
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and partners across the nation together will direct up to $720 million towards 84 conservation projects that will help communities improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. These projects make up the second round of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Through the 2015 and 2016 rounds, USDA and partners are investing up to $1.5 billion in 199 strategic conservation projects. Projects are selected on a competitive basis, and local private partners must be able to at least match the USDA commitment. For this round, USDA received 265 applications requesting nearly $900 million, or four times the amount of available federal funding. The 84 projects selected for 2016 include proposed partner matches totaling over $500 million, more than tripling the federal investment alone.
RCPP draws on local knowledge and networks to fuel conservation projects. Bringing together a wide variety of new partners including businesses, universities, non-profits and local and Tribal governments makes it possible to deliver innovative, landscape- and watershed-scale projects that improve water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat, soil health and other natural resource concerns on working farms, ranches and forests.
Water quality and drought are dominant themes in this year’s RCPP project list with 45 of the 84 projects focusing on water resource concerns.
“From the harmful impact of algal bloom in the Great Lakes region to the devastating effects of persistent drought in California, RCPP helps private landowners and producers develop solutions that work for them and meet the needs of their communities and local wildlife,” Vilsack said. “It’s encouraging to see so much interest in the program.”
USDA is committed to invest $1.2 billion in RCPP partnerships over the life of the 2014 Farm Bill. This announcement brings the current USDA commitment to almost $600 million invested in 199 partner-led projects, leveraging an additional $900 million for conservation activities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
For the full list of 2016 projects, go to http://1.usa.gov/1kkYT9t.
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I want to address a couple of issues in this week’s editor’s note.