Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the launch of what he calls a new era in American conservation efforts with an historic focus on public-private partnership.
The new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and will benefit areas all across the nation. RCPP streamlines conservation efforts by combining four conservation programs into one.
The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, nonprofit organizations, local and tribal governments, and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.
“RCPP allows for efficient streamlining of resources and programs to design conservation projects that are tailored to best address our needs here locally,” said Kasey Taylor, Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in Delaware.
With partners investing along with the department, USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of this five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. 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.
Vilsack named eight critical conservation areas which received 35 percent of the program’s overall funding. The Chesapeake Bay watershed, which encompasses a third of the state of Delaware, was announced as a CCA.
The following resource concerns are Delaware’s top priorities: water quality degradation (excess nutrients in surface and ground waters); water quality degradation (pesticides transported to surface and ground waters); insufficient water (inefficient use of irrigation water); excess water (ponding, flooding, seasonal high water table, seeps and drifted snow) and soil erosion (sheet, rill and wind erosion).
For more state-specific information on RCPP, go to www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.
Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposals are due Sept. 26.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov or contact the local USDA service center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, Ext. 3.