October 19, 2021

USDA invests $75 million in partner-led projects

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest nearly $75 million for 15 partner-led projects to address natural resource concerns on private lands.

This year, projects funded by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s Alternative Funding Arrangements focus on climate-smart agriculture and forestry and other conservation priorities, as well as improving access for historically underserved producers.

“The AFA component of RCPP is designed for partners who are thinking outside of the box to address some of our most pressing natural resource challenges,” said Ivan Dozier, state conservationist in Illinois.

“RCPP is a testament to the power of partnership. By combining local expertise, partner resources, federal assistance and a shared commitment to conservation, we can advance critical priorities and innovative solutions that are key to addressing climate issues.”

As part of this year’s project selections, NRCS prioritized projects that support smart strategies on working lands to help sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Several projects also had concrete plans for engaging producers from historically underserved communities.

Through RCPP, NRCS works with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to advance conservation priorities on the ground. AFA projects are partner-designed and partner-led RCPP projects that propose innovative uses of program funding to achieve conservation benefits.

Through AFA projects, lead partners are responsible for contracting directly with eligible farmers and other landowners to implement conservation activities on the ground.

Two of the 15 projects involve Illinois partners and farmers:

Illinois Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership — Illinois Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Land and Water Resources will establish a Climate-Smart Agricultural Champions program for Illinois producers to incentivize climate-smart conservation practices and systems with greenhouse gas and water quality benefits. Project partners will create an Agricultural Climate-Smart Institute to establish educational and training programs for climate-smart systems and practices.

Soil and Water Outcomes 2022-2023 (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri) — Illinois Soybean Association will replicate and scale up an existing pay-for-performance model piloted in Iowa to improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in target watersheds. Farmers will implement conservation practices and systems on 140,000 acres of cropland. RCPP funding will be used to pay for the verified water quality outcomes while partner contributions from Nutrien Ag Solutions and PepsiCo will pay for verified carbon reductions.