Ag Policy Blog

USDA Rolls Out $1.5 Billion for Conservation and Climate-Smart Ag Under RCPP

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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A pollinator field in Nebraska. USDA on Wednesday announced $1.5 billion in funding for projects under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the most in the program's history. (DTN file photo)

Using a roundtable discussion in Mankato, Minnesota, as a backdrop, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the USDA purses on Wednesday to announce $1.5 billion available this year for groups under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

USDA announced the funding -- the most in the program's history -- is available for "partner-driven conservation and climate solutions," under "President Biden's Investing in America agenda."

Groups have through July 2, 2024, to apply for funding under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). USDA stated the department is accepting proposals "that will help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners adopt and expand conservation strategies to enhance natural resources while tackling the climate crisis. These projects in turn can save farmers money, create new revenue streams, and increase productivity."

The RCPP was created in the 2014 farm bill as a way to fund watershed-scale conservation projects typically including both public and private groups to work with farmers to enroll in those projects and provide technical assistance.

In recent years, the RCPP has drawn some criticism from groups about the complications and hoops to apply for funding under the program. As part of its funding announcement, USDA added, "Additionally, NRCS is announcing progress on its effort to streamline and simplify RCPP and improve processes and implementation."

USDA stated the $1.5 billion for fiscal-year 2024 comes from a combination of dollars in the 2018 farm bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided USDA $4.95 billion over five years to use for RCPP projects. Combined, those two funding pots have dramatically expanded the ability of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)to fund new projects.

"We had unprecedented demand for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program last year, showing the robust interest in conservation from farmers and ranchers," Vilsack said. "Through the increase in funding from President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, we're able to invest even more this year in this important program, increasing our impact across the landscape. We're looking forward to seeing what the more streamlined and customer-oriented Regional Conservation Partnership Program can do to get more conservation on the ground in the coming months and years."

In FY 2023, USDA provided $1 billion for 81 projects nationally, of which 77 projects were defined as "climate-focus" projects and 22 of the projects were listed as focusing on water quality and conservation.

Along with drawing dollars from separate pots of money, USDA has created "RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA)."

RCPP Classic projects are implemented using NRCS contracts and easements with producers, landowners and communities in collaboration with project partners, USDA stated.

Through RCPP AFA, the lead partner works directly with agricultural producers to support the development of innovative conservation approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic.

NRCS will set aside $100 million for Tribal-led projects to be used between both funding opportunities. NRCS encourages proposals led by historically underserved entities or Indian tribes.

USDA stated the RCPP funding priorities for FY 2024 include "climate-smart agriculture, urban agriculture, conservation, and environmental justice."

Project proposals for RCPP are being accepted through the RCPP portal.

Details on the RCPP Classic and RCPP AFA funding opportunities are available on

NRCS also will be hosting four webinars to provide additional information to groups looking to apply for funding. See more at:….

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