Regional Conservation Partnership Program

To use covered programs to further the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife, and related natural resources on eligible land on a regional or watershed scale.

To meet or avoid the need for national, State, and local natural resource regulatory requirements
related to production on eligible land.

To encourage eligible partners to cooperate with producers in implementing projects that will result in the installation and maintenance of eligible activities that affect multiple agricultural or nonindustrial private forest operations on a local, regional, State or multi-state basis.

To enter into agreements with partners who will identify conservation needs in an area, conduct conservation activities with producers and landowners to encourage them to participate in the covered programs through program contracts or easement agreements.

To combine the authorities of four former conservation programs - the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Great Lakes Basin Program.

Assistance is delivered in accordance with the rules of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP); and, in designated Critical Conservation Areas, the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention Program.
Related Programs10.904 Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention; 10.912 Environmental Quality Incentives Program; 10.922 Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP); 10.924 Conservation Stewardship Program

Agency - Department of Agriculture

Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.

Office - See Regional Agency Offices.

For more information on this and other related conservation programs, consult the local telephone directory where your land is located for location of the USDA service center.

For a list of NRCS State offices with telephone numbers and addresses, see appropriate Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Information is available on the internet at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp.


Program Accomplishments

Not Applicable.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Technical assistance is provided for conservation planning, design and implementation of conservation practices for eligible participants.

Financial assistance is provided for implementation of structural, and land management practices.

Cost-share payments may be made to implement one or more eligible structural or vegetative practices.

Incentive payments can be made to implement one or more land management practices.

Funding for RCPP is allocated to projects in three different fund pools: 40 percent of RCPP funding will go to national projects; 25 percent will go to state projects; and 35 percent will go to critical conservation areas (CCAs) designated by the Secretary of Agriculture.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Eligible partners include advocate groups for conservation and those interested in assisting agricultural producers who face serious threats to soil, water, and related natural resources, or who need assistance with complying with Federal and State environment laws.



Eligible partnering organizations include:
• A State or unit of local government;
• An Indian Tribe;
• A farmer cooperative;
• A water district, irrigation district, rural water district or association, or other organization with specific water delivery authority to producers on agricultural land;
• A municipal water or wastewater treatment entity;
• An institution of higher education;
• An organization or entity with an established history of working cooperatively with producers on agricultural land;
• Conservation driven nongovernmental organizations.

Beneficiary Eligibility

To be eligible the agricultural producers participating within an approved project area must be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions and in compliance with the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) payment limitations.

Conservation payments for the Conservation Stewardship Program are limited to a maximum payment limitation per producer of $200,000 for the life of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Conservation payments for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program are limited to a maximum payment limitation per producer of $450,000 for the life of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Credentials/Documentation

Entities must prove their eligibility by providing documents indicating their legal status and agree to provide such information to NRCS as the agency deems necessary or desirable to assist in its determination of eligibility for program benefits and for other program implementation purposes. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-87.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Under RCPP, the NRCS enters into partnership agreements with eligible entities and organizations that want to promote ground and surface water conservation or improve water quality on agricultural lands.

After the Chief has announced approved RCPP project areas, eligible agricultural producers may submit a program application to NRCS.

Each fiscal year, NRCS may make RCPP financial and technical assistance available to eligible owners and operators of agricultural lands who participate in approved RCPP project areas.



Partners may assist NRCS by identifying producers in the project area.

Partners may also assist producers in submitting applications for the program.

Environmental impact information is not required for this program.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.

12372.

Application Procedures

This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-102. This program is excluded from coverage under OMB Circular No. A-110. For each program year the Natural Resources Conservation Service issues an announcement of program funding (APF) through the Federal Register. Application procedures are outlined in the APF.

Award Procedures

For each program year the Natural Resources Conservation Service issues an announcement of program funding (APF) through the Federal Register. Award procedures are outlined in the APF.

Deadlines

Contact the headquarters or regional office, as appropriate, for application deadlines.

Authorization

Food Security Act of 1985, Title XII, Public Law 99-198.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

For each program year the Natural Resources Conservation Service issues an announcement of program funding (APF) through the Federal Register. Application deadlines are outlined in the APF.

Appeals

A participant may appeal any adverse determination to the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Renewals

A partnership agreement shall not exceed five years. The Secretary of Agriculture may extend a partnership agreement one time for up to 12 months.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

This program has no statutory formula.
This program has no matching requirements. RCPP does not require a specific match. However, an eligible partner is expected to provide a significant portion of the overall costs of the scope of the project that is the subject of the agreement, and the Secretary can give priority to applications that significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical resources.
MOE requirements are not applicable to this program.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Eligible partners enter into multi-year agreements, not to exceed five years, with NRCS to promote conservation and address resource concerns on eligible agricultural lands. RCPP is intended to leverage investment in natural resources conservation along with services and non-Federal resources of other eligible partners. Method of awarding/releasing assistance: lump sum.

Post Assistance Requirements

Reports

NRCS is required to report to the Secretary and Congress, the following items for each project.

Partners will be required to provide input on these items and submit reports to NRCS as established in the partner agreement no later than November 30, 2015, and every year thereafter.

Items provided by NRCS are noted below.

Partners will be responsible for items not noted as provided by NRCS.

1.

The number and types of eligible partners, landowners, and producers participating in the partnership agreements selected (provided by NRCS except in the case of alternative funding arrangements whereby the partner must provide this information).
2.

The number of producers and landowners receiving assistance (provided by NRCS).
3.

The number of new producers and landowners reached (i.e., those who have not previously participated in NRCS programs) and if any beginning farmers or ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, eligible veterans farmers and ranchers, or Indian Tribes received assistance.
4.

Total funding committed to projects, including from Federal and non-Federal resources (Federal funding resources total provided by NRCS).
5.

A description of how the funds are being administered under any alternative funding arrangement including:
a.

Any oversight mechanisms that NRCS or partner has implemented,
b.

The process through which NRCS or partner is resolving appeals by program participants, and
c.

The means by which NRCS or partner is tracking adherence to any applicable provisions for payment eligibility.

In addition, on an annual basis, partners will be required to provide updates on the activities conducted to date; a status of the accomplishment of goals established in the project application, including whether and why goals have been adjusted; any proposed adjustments to funding requested from NRCS; and other items as required in the partnership agreement.

Requirements for the final report will be established in the partnership agreement and will include a description of the goals and outcomes accomplished.

Cash reports are not applicable.

Progress reports are not applicable.

Expenditure reports are not applicable.

Performance monitoring is not applicable.

Audits

In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-133 (Revised, June 27, 2003), "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations," nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $500,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $500,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular No. A-133. Natural Resources Conservation Service makes periodic random reviews of the operation and maintenance of the contract items during the life span of the conservation practice. Participants are subject to audit by the Office of Inspector General, USDA.

Records

Partnership Agreements are maintained in National Headquarters, Washington, DC and producer contracts and agreements are maintained in State and local NRCS office and Federal record centers for specified number of years.

Financial Information

Account Identification

12-1004-0-1-302.

Obigations

(Salaries) FY 13 $0; FY 14 est $21,142,000; and FY 15 est $21,045,000. (Cooperative Agreements) FY 13 $0; FY 14 est $74,538,000; and FY 15 est $78,955,000

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

There is no minimum amount and the maximum amount for any fiscal year will be established by the Chief of NRCS.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Announcement of Program Funding (APF) are announced in the Federal Register. Related program manuals, handbooks and leaflets are issued by NRCS.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

See Regional Agency Offices. For more information on this and other related conservation programs, consult the local telephone directory where your land is located for location of the USDA service center. For a list of NRCS State offices with telephone numbers and addresses, see appropriate Appendix IV of the Catalog. Information is available on the internet at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp.

Headquarters Office

Mark Rose Financial Assistance Programs Division, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture, PO Box 2890, Washington, District of Columbia 20113 Email: Mark.Rose@wdc.usda.gov Phone: 202-720-1845 Fax: 202-720-4265

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Applications will be evaluated against the following four standards: Solutions 25%, Contributions 30%, Innovation 20% and Participation 25%.



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