US – Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has announced USDA’s commitment of USD 1.5 billion to be set in motion in fiscal year 2024 for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) marking a pivotal moment in conservation efforts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is actively seeking project proposals until July 2, 2024, with a focus on empowering farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to implement conservation strategies while combatting climate change.

This investment, a cornerstone of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, underscores the commitment to foster partner-driven initiatives aimed at addressing climate challenges.

Such initiatives not only enhance natural resources but also offer economic benefits by saving money, creating new revenue streams, and boosting productivity.

The USDA’s investments in climate-smart agriculture, initiated since the onset of the Biden-Harris Administration, are projected to support over 180,000 farms and more than 225 million acres over the next five years.

This robust commitment, facilitated through the Inflation Reduction Act and Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, marks a significant stride towards sustainable land management practices.

Central to this endeavor is the Farm Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, which have enabled USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to augment funding for RCPP.

Additionally, NRCS is actively refining RCPP processes to ensure efficiency and efficacy in program implementation, reflecting a commitment to enhance conservation efforts across the landscape.

This news comes barely a month after USDA announced a substantial allocation of up to USD 12 million in funding, aimed at fortifying U.S. agricultural products’ market presence and enhancing access to locally grown food in communities grappling with food insecurity.

This funding initiative is administered through three grant programs under the purview of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS): the Acer Access and Development Program, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program.

This funding plan encompasses two distinct funding avenues: RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA).

RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA)

While RCPP Classic projects entail collaboration with producers, landowners, and communities through NRCS contracts and easements, RCPP AFA empowers lead partners to engage directly with agricultural producers, fostering innovative conservation approaches.

Notably, a portion of the funding, amounting to USD 100 million, is earmarked for Tribal-led projects, underscoring a commitment to inclusivity and collaboration.

Aligned with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, the 2024 RCPP funding priorities encompass climate-smart agriculture, urban agriculture, conservation, and environmental justice.

These efforts aim to ensure that disadvantaged communities, historically marginalized by underinvestment and pollution, reap substantial benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy solutions.

NRCS encourages proposals spearheaded by historically underserved entities or Indian tribes, emphasizing inclusivity and diversity in conservation initiatives.

Project proposals for RCPP are currently being accepted through the RCPP portal, with detailed information available on Grants.gov. NRCS will also conduct webinars to provide additional insights and guidance.

The RCPP embodies a collaborative approach to conservation, leveraging public-private partnerships to address natural resource challenges on agricultural land.

Since the inception of the Biden-Harris Administration, NRCS has allocated USD 1.8 billion to 256 RCPP projects across 49 states and territories, underscoring a sustained commitment to environmental stewardship.

Alongside enhancing RCPP, NRCS is diligently working to improve its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, ensuring optimal functionality for stakeholders and staff alike.

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