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Program to Increase Flexibility of Conservation Innovation
USAgNet - 03/24/2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest up to $50 million in fiscal year 2020 to fund a unique, partner-led approach to addressing natural resource concerns at local, regional, and landscape scales.

Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program's (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA), NRCS is authorized to fund up to 15 projects across the country where partners will be given greater liberty to manage an RCPP project and the associated relationships with participating producers and landowners.

"We're excited to co-invest with partners in ways that more fully leverage the flexibilities of the RCPP program," said Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS state conservationist. "These alternative funding arrangements allow partners to propose solutions to conservation challenges that might be a little more out of the box than we've been able to try before. It's an opportunity for our partners to step up and deliver conservation in new and perhaps more efficient and effective ways."

NRCS will execute RCPP AFAs through agreements with eligible lead partners. Lead partners will be responsible for contracting directly with eligible producers and landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.

NRCS is looking for RCPP AFA project proposals now through May 18. Proposals must be submitted through the RCPP portal at nrcs-sites.secure.force.com/. Information about this request for proposals is available on grants.gov.

While RCPP AFA projects were authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 Farm Bill enhanced the RCPP AFA provision and authorized NRCS to award up to 15 RCPP AFA projects annually. Through RCPP AFAs, approved project partners can work directly with farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners to carry out RCPP projects, as opposed to implementing projects through NRCS producer contracts and landowner easements.

The Farm Bill statute highlights some project types that may be particularly suited to AFAs:

- Projects that use innovative approaches to leverage the federal investment in conservation;

- Projects that deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach; and,

- Projects that seek large-scale infrastructure investment that generate conservation benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners.

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