Posted May 28, 2014
 
On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) traveled to Michigan to launch a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to fund public-private partnerships to reduce water pollution, according to a news release on USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) available here. Agriculture.com posted an article available here, ABC News here, and The Hill here.
Vilsack also applauded Sen. Stabenow for her leadership as Agriculture Committee Chair to improve conservation programs in Michigan and across the nation, and he recognized her work to craft and secure passage of the Farm Bill, which authorized USDA to create the new conservation program.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was authorized earlier this year in the Agriculture Act and combined four programs into one.
“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said Vilsack. “We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.”
The RCPP will competitively award funds to private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, and local and tribal governments specifically for their regions. The Agriculture Act gave USDA $1.2 billion for the five-year program, with $400 million available the first year, which it can leverage $2.4 billion through matches. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands.
Conservation also provides an economic boost by stimulating local tourism. Cleaner water and wildlife habitats provide additional opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. The outdoor recreation economy supports 6.1 million direct jobs in federal, state, and local tax revenue and $646 billion in spending each year.
The RCPP has three funding pools:
35 percent of total program funding directed to
critical conservation areas, chosen by the agriculture secretary; 40 percent directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process; and 25 percent directed to state-level projectsthrough a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders. 
The critical conservation areas Secretary Vilsack announced today are: the Great Lakes Region, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, Prairie Grasslands, and the Colorado River Basin.

USDA is now accepting proposals for this program. Pre-proposals are due July 14 and full proposals are due September 26. For more information on applying, visit NRCS website here.


To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit NRCS website
here. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit NRCS website here.

 

For more information on conservation programs, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.