USDA invests in partner-driven projects that protect natural resources in South Dakota

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. – On April 16, USDA’s Natural Resources Service announced that it is investing $4 million in South Dakota for a partner-driven conservation project (partner-driven conservation projects) through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS will leverage over $8 million in partner contributions in South Dakota.

“I’m excited to announce the first RCPP awards under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Jeff Zimprich, state conservationist in South Dakota. “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.”

RCPP uses a partner-driven approach to fund innovative solutions to natural resource challenges. Through RCPP, NRCS and partners work together with private landowners and producers to implement a variety of conservation activities, including land management practices and systems, short-term land rentals, conservation easements and watershed structures. The mix of conservation activities carried out under each project is dependent on a project’s goals, objectives and conservation benefits.

These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. They will support diverse agricultural and natural resource objectives, from helping farmers and ranchers improve water quality, soil health and drought resiliency to protecting drinking water supplies and enhancing wildlife habitat.

In SD, the Big Sioux River Watershed Project is designed to restore and maintain water quality in the Big Sioux River basin in eastern South Dakota, while the Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership will work with producers to convert flood irrigated fields to more efficient irrigation systems to continue improving irrigation efficiency in a watershed with an estimated at 60 percent delivery efficiency. These projects have partner funding contributions of $6,215,070 and 1,674,000 respectively.

Nationally, NRCS is investing $206 million for 48 partner-driven conservation projects across 29 states, while leveraging nearly $300 million in partner contributions.

Though RCPP was first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 Farm Bill made changes to strengthen the program and simplify its rules. RCPP is now a stand-alone program with $300 million annually available for partner-driven projects. In addition to the general RCPP projects announced today, NRCS has already awarded more than $50 million for 18 renewals of 2014 Farm Bill projects. A separate RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) funding announcement is currently open until May 18.

Since 2015, RCPP has combined $1 billion in NRCS investments with close to $2 billion in partner dollars to implement conservation practices nationwide. There are currently 341 active RCPP projects and close to 2,000 RCPP partners.