Utilities Eligible for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Funding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced $300 million in available funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This program encourages partnerships to address natural resource concerns related to agriculture at scale.

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, at least 10% of NRCS conservation spending will go toward protecting drinking water sources. By participating in an RCPP, utilities can help assure that these funds have the most benefit possible to protecting source waters.

The USDA says utilities are welcome to form partnerships with other interested stakeholders such as conservation districts, agricultural groups, watershed groups, etc., and apply for RCPP funding.

Key aspects of the RCPP program include:

  • Projects can provide up to $10 million from NRCS to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help protect source waters, meet other water quality goals, and address other resource concerns.
  • Partners are given wide latitude to craft a project that will best address local source water challenges. These can include both quality and quantity issues, such as reducing nutrient, sediment, chemical, or animal waste inputs into source waters or improving irrigation efficiency.
  • Partners can bring their strengths to the project – NRCS looks favorably on a cumulative 50% local match across all partners, in-kind donations such as staff time, monitoring, and outreach count towards the local match.

Application details are available on NRCS’s website. The lead partner on each project should complete the application by December 3, 2019.

Those interested in applying should:

  • Reach out to their local NRCS State Conservationist, their state RCPP coordinator, and any potential project partners (such as conservation districts) to develop project ideas.
  • Be prepared to clearly and specifically articulate their source water concerns and how agricultural conservation practices can help address them.
  • Bring any available resources to the partnership, such as in-kind staff time, source water protection funds, monitoring resources, etc.

The NRCS Partner Led Solutions Guide provides an overview of many successful projects.