WASHINGTON, April 20, 2020 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced it will extend deadlines for project proposal submissions to May 29 for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFAs). Originally deadlines were mid-May, but NRCS wanted to provide additional time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“NRCS recognizes the hardship that this unprecedented time is causing our partners and others,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “We want to offer them additional time to take full advantage of these opportunities to propose bold and transformative projects to advance agriculture and conservation for present and future generations of agricultural producers and private forest landowners.”
NRCS will invest up to $50 million in fiscal year 2020 to fund AFAs, a unique and partner-led approach to address natural resource concerns at local, regional and landscape scales. NRCS is authorized to fund up to 15 projects in which partners will receive greater liberty to manage an RCPP project and the associated relationships with participating producers and landowners. Funding for projects will range from $250,000 to $10 million.
Through AFAs, approved project partners can work directly with farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners to carry out RCPP projects, instead of implementing projects through NRCS producer contracts and landowner easements.
The 2018 Farm Bill highlighted some project types that are particularly suited to AFAs:
- Projects that use innovative approaches to leverage the federal investment in conservation;
- Projects that deploy a pay-for-performance conservation approach; and
- Projects that seek large-scale infrastructure investments that generate benefits for agricultural producers and nonindustrial private forest owners.
Additionally, NRCS will invest up to $25 million in On-Farm Trials in 2020, which are a component of the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). This investment will help support the adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches on agricultural land. This includes up to $10 million for the Soil Health Demonstration Trials. On-Farm Trials funding is designed to offer producers, through partners, technical and financial assistance compensation for any risks associated with carrying out new conservation practices, systems and approaches at the farm level, including the environmental, financial and social (to the extent possible) impacts of carrying them out.
NRCS is seeking proposals that address at least one of the following four On-Farm Trial main priorities:
- Irrigation Management Technologies;
- Precision Agriculture Technologies and Strategies;
- Management Technologies and Strategies; and
- Soil Health Demonstrations Trials.