April 23, 2010
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking applications for the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) until May 27, 2010. The full Request for Proposals can be found here.
The CCPI allows NRCS to partner with eligible organizations to provide financial and technical assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and nonindustrial private forest lands. The funding for the CCPI comes from three underlying working lands conservation programs: Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).
One major purpose for the CCPI added by the 2008 Farm Bill is the development of innovative conservation practices and delivery methods including practices associated with organic production and specialty crops. In addition, NRCS will give priority to proposals that provide for outreach to, and participation of beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, limited resources farmers or ranchers, and Indian tribes.
Under the CCPI, NRCS partners with nongovernmental organizations, institutions of higher education, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, state and local governments, and federally recognized Indian tribes to address conservation priorities. The partnership agreement specifies a geographic area defined by a watershed, wildlife habitat or other resource concern or by a political boundary, as well as project objectives that could be met by establishing conservation systems, practices and management measures on non-industrial forest or agricultural land including innovative conservation systems and practices.
Once NRCS and the partner organization enter into a CCPI agreement, farmers and forest owners or operators can apply to NRCS to enroll in specified conservation programs in order to receive cost share and technical assistance to implement measures that will help reach the goals of the CCPI agreement.
For the FY2010 signup, NRCS will make at least $5 million in funds from CSP, EQIP, and WHIP available to owner and operators of agricultural and nonindustrial forestland who participate in CCPI projects. Separately, as part of the new Mississippi River Basin Initiative, NRCS is making up to another $50 million in CCPI funds available for projects tailored to water quality in specific target areas in that basin. Under the terms of the Farm Bill, NRCS has six percent of CSP, EQIP, and WHIP funding available for CCPI each fiscal year, which translates into over $100 million annually.
Written CCPI proposals must be submitted to NRCS headquarters and to the NRCS State Conservationist for the state in which a project is proposed. The NRCS State Conservationists will submit letters of review to NRCS headquarters for CCPI project proposals in their state. CCPI applicants are encouraged to work with their State Conservationist during development of a project proposal.
The CCPI is not a grant program. Funding does not go to the partner organization; however the partner organization may request that the NRCS State Conservationist develop a separate contribution agreement to provide for the partner’s providing technical services to the farmers or foresters participating in a CCPI project. These side agreements may be very important for groups who want to participate but do not have the necessary resources to provide all the necessary staff time to project outreach and technical assistance.
Visit the CCPI website for the full request for proposals, a sample CCPI proposal, NRCS Guidance on evaluating proposals, a sample CCPI agreement, and a list of addresses for NRCS State Conservationists.