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The Farm Bill's Regional Conservation Partnership Program
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program was started under the 2014 Farm Bill. It is a combination of four former conservation programs. The program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service with the goal of helping farmers protect soil and water quality on their land. The federal program is investing more than $370 million across the country and each project has at least a 1-to-1 match, bringing the total investment to more than $740 million annually.
Funding for the RCPP falls under three categories: national, state, and critical conservation areas. National programs are allocated 40 percent of the funding, state programs receive 25 percent of the funding, while critical conservation areas receive 35 percent of the funding. There are eight geographic areas that have been named as critical conservation areas, including the Great Lakes region. This means that Great Lakes states have access to additional funding under the RCPP, thanks to the critical conservation area designation.
Critical conservation area funding allocated under the RCPP has a more narrow focus than the rest of the program. Although water quality remains paramount, projects with critical conservation area funding in the Great Lakes must focus on “managing nutrients and sediment on agricultural land to reduce algal blooms in the Great Lakes.”
Why We Need Conservation
Farm runoff is polluting our water with excess nutrients, causing toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie and around the Great Lakes. Luckily, we have solutions to help curb this problem. Farm Bill conservation programs like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) must be targeted at priority watersheds in Great Lakes states and their funding must be maintained at current levels. To assist, a federal coordinator is needed who can ensure funds are being directed where they are needed most, projects are accomplishing their intended goals, and resources from every level of government are being leveraged, stretching every penny even further.