USDA selects first projects of new, innovative program

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Farm Forum

Huron, S.D. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 115 high-impact projects across all 50 states, including South Dakota, will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

RCPP’s historic focus on public-private partnership enables private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in efforts to keep our land resilient, our water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.

This year’s project in South Dakota, The Central Big Sioux River Water Quality Project, will accomplish a wide diversity of agricultural and natural resource goals. The objectives of this project is to restore and protect the beneficial uses of the portion of the Big Sioux River and its tributaries by promoting and implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the watershed that will reduce sediment loading, lower or prevent bacterial contamination, and improve soil health.

“Partners are seeing the value of conservation and investing in their future,” Vilsack said. “These partnerships are forging a new path for getting conservation on the ground and are providing opportunities for communities to have a voice and ownership in protecting and improving our natural resources. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program ushers in a new era of conservation, and we’re excited about the down-the-road benefits from this new Farm Bill program.”

This year’s projects will engage hundreds of partners with wide-ranging interests, including communities, conservation districts, agribusiness, non-government organizations, for- and non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies and Tribal governments. In addition to USDA funds, partners’ will contribute an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment.

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Jeff Zimprich USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist in South Dakota. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.”

The primary resource concern of the Central Big Sioux Water Quality Project is the degradation of surface water quality from bacteria, nutrients and sediment. The project will assist land owners and producers with improving water quality by avoiding, controlling, and trapping nutrient and sediment runoff, and reducing agricultural non-point source pollution within the watershed. Thirteen Animal Waste Management Systems will be installed, and 13 Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans written, 43 acres of land will be enrolled in Riparian Area Management (RAM) and 1,700 acres in the Seasonal Riparian Area Management (SRAM), Cropland Best Management Practices will also be installed to maintain a sustainable level of agricultural productivity.

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals. “With so many strong project proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive. RCPP is a 5-year $1.2 billion USDA commitment; projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years,” Zimprich said.

For more information on South Dakota RCPP projects, visit NRCS South Dakota’s webpage at http://1.usa.gov/1cJ3fyQ.

The next announcement of program funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year.

To learn more about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA service center.