USDA Rolls Out Strong New Partnered Conservation Program

Dan Cattle, Citrus, Corn, Cotton, Dairy & Livestock, Environment, Field & Row Crops, Forage Crops, General, Grain, Hogs & Pork, Industry News Release, Poultry, Specialty Crops, Sugar, Tree, nut & vine crops, Vegetables

California’s Bay-Delta Designated a Critical Conservation Area

nrcs-logoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new era in American conservation efforts with an historic focus on public-private partnership. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), created in the 2014 Farm Bill, will fund a number of conservation activities across California – with special funding available for California’s Bay-Delta watershed.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said Vilsack. “We’re giving private companies, local communities, and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.”

RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands. USDA’s $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year.

Secretary Vilsack announced California’s Bay-Delta Watershed as one of eight critical conservation areas (CCA) that will compete for one third of the total available funds. This future work will build upon the more than $50 million invested by NRCS since 2011 to protect and improve natural resources in the Bay-Delta. Additionally, the Colorado River Basin CCA will take in small portions of Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The RCPP funds will be divided among three funding pools:

  • 35 percent of total program funding will be directed to the eight critical conservation areas.
  • 40 percent will be directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process.
  • 25 percent will be directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders.

RCPP replaces the former NRCS Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) program. These two programs also worked with conservation partners to implement conservation using a landscape approach.
NRCS California has established eight natural resource priority concerns for which applications will be accepted. These are soil health, water quality, air quality, water quantity, habitat degradation for at-risk species, inefficient energy use, forest health, and rangeland health is now accepting proposals for this program. Pre-proposals are due July 14, and full proposal are due September 26. For more information on applying, visit

NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935. For more information on NRCS, visit