The Department of Agriculture is making available $225 million for public-private partnerships aimed at conservation projects, with an eye on climate change mitigation, supporting urban agriculture and helping historically underserved producers.
The money will be available through two different forms of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and should be coupled with matching funds to “amplify the impact” of the dollars, USDA noted in a release.
“RCPP is public-private partnership at its best,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said in a statement. “We’re harnessing the power of partnership to create lasting solutions to global challenges, like climate change, and support producers and communities who have been underserved in the past.”
A “classic” version of the program is designed to use Natural Resources Conservation Service contracts and easements directly with producers and landowners. RCPP Alternative Funding Agreements offer more flexibility and can be used to “support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be available under RCPP Classic,” USDA said.
The program was created in the 2014 farm bill and expanded in the 2018 legislation to include RCPP’s AFA category.
Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., was one of the program's champions on Capitol Hill and welcomed the funding announcement.
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“The program has been an overwhelming success in protecting our land and water, improving hunting and fishing and strengthening our local economies," she said. "This is about doing what works for farmers and recognizes the important stake that they have in protecting our land and water.”
According to USDA, the program and its matching funds component have invested nearly $3 billion in 579 conservation projects since it was first authorized in the 2014 farm bill. Some 408 of those projects are currently active.
Applications will be open through April 13. USDA says funding “ is open to agriculture and silviculture associations, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, conservation districts and universities, among others.”
Story updated to include Sen. Stabenow reaction.
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