The Agriculture Department will be distributing $500 million this fiscal year through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which allows the agency to share costs for regional conservation projects with private entities and state governments.
In a news release, USDA also said it is working to improve seven aspects of the program, which include reducing the number of agreements and the the length of easement transactions, improving the online portal, and providing "consistent" guidance and training for employees.
The department said it also wants to simplify the technical assistance structure and the partner reimbursement process, as well as improve the conservation desktop. These changes were developed through listening sessions and surveys, the release said.
The agency has already made some changes, including increasing project funding ceilings, simplifying financial assistance and technical assistance structures, and providing flexibilities for easement deeds.
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This year RCPP saw a dramatic expansion of funding through the Inflation Reduction Act. In comparison to this year's total funding, the agency only awarded $197 million for projects in 2022.
"Thanks to the additional resources unlocked by the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the improvements being made to the program, more farmers, ranchers, and foresters than ever before will be able to access and deploy conservation and climate-smart practices that will combat the climate crisis, enhance water and soil quality, protect vulnerable wildlife habitat, and more,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release.
The agency will accept applications through its portal until Aug. 18
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