New conservation initiative goes beyond traditional government efforts. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the launch of what he calls “a new era in American conservation efforts” with an historic focus on public-private partnership.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” Vilsack said. “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.”

Pre-proposals for this new conservation program, called the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), are due July 14.  Final proposals are due Sept. 26. RCPP was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs (the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion) into one.

The RCPP funding announcement can be found at:

The 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.

“Local decision making is empowered through this program–bringing together conservation groups, cities and townships, sportsmen groups, universities, agricultural associations and others – to design conservation projects that are tailored to our needs here in Iowa,” said Jay Mar, NRCS state conservationist in Iowa.

With the investment of participating partners, USDA’s $1.2 billion will leverage $2.4 billion for conservation over the life of the five-year program.

The RCPP has three funding pools:

  • 35 percent of total program funding directed to eight critical conservation areas, chosen by the agriculture secretary. Iowa is included in the following two CCAs: the Mississippi River Basin and Prairie Grasslands;
  • 40 percent directed to regional or multi-state projects through a national competitive process;
  • 25 percent directed to state-level projects through a competitive process established by NRCS state leaders. Iowa’s specific funding priorities include:
  • Water Quality – Including ground and surface water
  • Soil Health/Soil Quality
  • Retention of Grasslands/Forestlands and other sensitive areas
  • Flood Reduction
  • Wildlife Habitat

For more information about Iowa’s RCPP information go to

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit