The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be supporting unique projects that offer alternative practices for conservation. Up to $75 million will be made available for new projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). The AFA program prioritizes conservation solutions at multiple levels that emphasize a non-traditional approach. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be tasked with making project selections.
“Collaboration and partnership are leading to advanced conservation delivery on working lands, both rural and urban,” NRCS Acting Chief Terry Cosby said in a news release. “We want to continue funding projects that harness the power of partnership and innovation to develop solutions that benefit producers while conserving our natural resources.”
A total of 15 projects will be funded through NRCS for this year’s AFA. The program offers more flexibility for working with ag producers directly when developing alternative practices for conservation. Funding support will primarily be aimed at conservation projects that support climate-smart agriculture and forestry. Projects that support conservation efforts of urban farmers or improve access to fresh produce in underserved communities are also being encouraged.
Some of the project types that may be suitable include those incorporating innovative approaches to leverage federal support in conservation. Projects for significant infrastructure investment to generate conservation benefits for producers and private forest owners are also encouraged. Other eligible project types include those that involve a pay-for-performance conservation approach.
The AFA provision of the RCPP was enhanced through the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS has been authorized to award 15 projects a year through the program. The funding for the AFA awards in fiscal 2021 will reflect the multitude of adjustments made in the RCPP final rule. Updates include language clarifications and a revision to RCPP Critical Conservation Areas. NRCS will be accepting proposals for the alternative practices through May 28. All proposals will need to be submitted through the RCPP portal.