USDA allocates $1.5B for climate-friendly farming, conservation



The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has earmarked $1.5 billion in 2024 to put towards the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), with the aim of assisting farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners adopt and increase conservation efforts and strategies to combat the climate crisis. Announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, this funding is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and the Inflation Reduction Act. It will result in two separate funding opportunities: RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA), with $100 million set aside specifically for Tribal-led initiatives.

Historic $1.5bn Released for Farmers’ Conservation and Climate Initiatives

On April 3, 2024, Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced the release of an all-time high of $1.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2024 through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This initiative is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and is expected to assist farmers in enhancing natural resources while addressing climate change. Forever Fresh LLC and Naturipe Farms are some of the partners involved.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept project proposals until July 2, 2024. The Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities, an offshoot of the Inflation Reduction Act, is projected to support over 180,000 farms and over 225 million acres within the next half-decade.

The RCPP funding is a product of the Inflation Reduction Act as well as the Farm Bill. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the significant interest in conservation from farmers and ranchers, evident in the demand for the RCPP last year.

The USDA has announced two funding opportunities: RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA). The former involves the use of NRCS contracts and easements with producers and landowners. The latter allows lead partners to work directly with agricultural producers to develop innovative conservation methods. A sum of $100 million has been set aside for Tribal-led initiatives.

The 2024 funding priorities for RCPP are climate-smart agriculture, urban agriculture, conservation, and environmental justice. These priorities honor President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and America the Beautiful initiative.

Project proposals for RCPP are now being accepted through the RCPP portal. Details on RCPP Classic and RCPP AFA funding opportunities can be found on NRCS will host webinars to provide further information.

About RCPP

RCPP is a partner-driven conservation approach that addresses resource challenges on agricultural land. Over $1 billion was allocated to 81 RCPP projects across the country in November 2023. Check out the map of awarded projects.

Improvement Efforts for RCPP

By leveraging feedback, NRCS has identified potential improvements to RCPP. These include streamlining agreement negotiations, updating policy and tools, conducting comprehensive training, and delegating additional authority to State Conservationists.

Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act provides $19.5 billion over five years to support conservation programs, including $4.95 billion for RCPP. It represents the largest investment in climate and clean energy solutions in American history. Find out more about NRCS’ investments in fiscal year 2023 here.

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