WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2016 – USDA announced Friday it will award $220 million to 84 Regional Conservation Partnership Projects (RCPPs) this year to help communities improve water quality, wildlife habitat and soil.The RCPP initiative, initially authorized by the 2014 farm bill, allocates federal dollars for large-scale conservation projects with the expectation that those funds will be matched by private investment. The first round of RCPP in 2015 invested $370 million in 115 RCPP projects, and leveraged about $400 million from the private sector.
RCPP projects are developed and implemented by local partnership groups composed of industry stakeholders – including agricultural retailers and farm organizations – local and tribal governments, non-profit organizations, universities and private landowners.
This year, USDA received 265 applications requesting almost $900 million in federal funding – about four times as much as was available. The partners on the 84 projects selected will contribute over $500 million, bringing the total amount of investment in RCPP projects for 2016 to $720 million.
The 2016 projects are largely focused on water quality and quantity; 45 of the 84 address water resource concerns.
“From the harmful impact of algal bloom in the Great Lakes region to the devastating effects of persistent drought in California, RCPP helps private landowners and producers develop solutions that work for them and meet the needs of their communities and local wildlife,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “It's encouraging to see so much interest in the program.”
The 2014 farm bill gave USDA the go-ahead to invest up to $1.2 billion in RCPPs. To date, USDA has committed about $600 million for 199 of these partner-led conservation initiatives, and has leveraged an additional $900 million in private funds. These projects are located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
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