Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative
The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) supports special local and regional conservation projects that involve groups of farmers or ranchers in partnership with USDA, farm, conservation and other non-governmental organizations, state and tribal agencies, and/or other entities. To implement the Initiative, the 2008 Farm Bill directs USDA to reserve 6 percent of the total funds or total acres for each of the fiscal years 2009 through 2012, from the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. This translates into over $100 million a year being available for special cooperative conservation projects.
The CCPI ensures specific attention to state and local conservation priorities and concerns, with 90 percent of the funds and acres reserved for projects chosen by the NRCS State Conservationist, in consultation with the NRCS State Technical Committees. The USDA Secretary is directed to use the remaining 10 percent of the funding for multi-state CCPI projects selected through a national competitive process. Project partnership agreements with USDA can run for up to 5 years.
2008 Farm Bill Changes
The 2002 Farm Bill authorized USDA to use funding from all the farm bill conservation programs to implement a “Partnerships and Cooperation” initiative, the precursor to CCPI. Unfortunately, the 2002 program was discretionary and USDA chose not to implement it. The 2008 Farm Bill, Congress makes CCPI mandatory.
While the 2002 Farm Bill’s Partnerships and Cooperation initiative included all conservation programs as possible funding sources, the new CCPI limits the funding sources to the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.
[Special note for readers who have followed this initiative previously: In 2004 through 2006, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service did offer planning grants, but not actual implementation grants, to conservation partnerships, originally calling them Partnerships and Cooperation planning grants and then in 2006 renaming it the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and making both planning grants and grants for Rapid Watershed Assessments. Shifting gears again, in 2007, NRCS issued a request for proposals still called CCPI but restricted solely to Rapid Watershed Assessments through a national competition.]
The CCPI is authorized by Section 2707 of the 2008 Farm Bill, which amends Section 1243 of the Food Security of 1985 and changes the Initiative’s name from the 2002 Farm Bill ‘s “Partnerships and Cooperation” to the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. The amended CCPI is to be codified at 16 U.S.C. Section 3843. Other provisions of 16 U.S.C Section 3843 are deleted or transferred as amended to be codified at 16 U.S.C. Section 3844.
Key Aspects of the New CCPI
Partnership Purposes – The CCPI funds projects with the following purposes:
- Addressing conservation priorities on a local, state, multi-state or regional level;
- Encouraging producers to cooperate in meeting applicable federal, state and local regulatory requirements;
- Encouraging producers to cooperate in the installation and maintenance of conservation practices that affect multiple operations; or
- Promoting the development and demonstration of innovative conservation practices and methods for delivering conservation services, including those for specialty crop and organic producers.
Eligible Applicants – Farmers and ranchers may enter into partnerships which include one or more of the following:
- States and local governments;
- Indian tribes;
- Producer associations;
- Farmer cooperatives;
- Institutions of higher education; or
- Nongovernmental organizations.
Required Information for Applications – A CCPI partnership agreement must include:
- Description of the conservation objectives to be achieved;
- Expected level of participation by agricultural producers in the area to be covered;
- Partnership to be developed;
- Amount of farm bill conservation funding requested;
- Amount of non-Federal contributions (in cash or in kind) that will be brought to the table; and
- Plan for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on progress made towards achieving the objectives.
Priorities for Project Selection – NRCS will give priority to applications that—
- Have a high percentage of agricultural producers involved;
- Significantly leverage non-Federal financial and technical resources and coordinate with other local, State, or Federal efforts;
- Deliver high percentages of applied conservation; or
- Provide innovation in conservation methods and delivery, including outcome-based performance measures and methods.
Technical and Financial Assistance
NRCS is directed to provide appropriate technical and financial assistance to producers participating in the project in an amount determined to be necessary to achieve the project objectives.
NRCS will ensure that basic rules for conservation programs apply, such as rules governing appeals, payment limitations, and conservation compliance.
Beyond those basic rules, special partnership projects may apply for, and NRCS may approve, adjustments to the CSP, EQIP, or WHIP program practices, specifications or payment rates in order to:
- Better reflect unique local circumstances and purposes; and
- Provide preferential enrollment to producers who are eligible for the applicable program and who are participating in a CCPI partnership project.
CCPI projects may include funding and programmatic aspects from multiple eligible programs, for instance, CSP and WHIP or EQIP and CSP. It is also possible in a given location that a CCPI special project might dovetail with a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) or Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) project, such that the land retirement aspect of a project comes via the CREP or WREP and the working lands aspect of the project comes through the CCPI.
The 2008 Farm Bill directs the USDA Secretary to reserve 6 percent of the funding for EQIP and WHIP and 6 percent of the acreage for CSP in each fiscal year from 2009 through 2012 for implementation of the CCPI. Any funding or acreage that is not used for special CCPI projects will revert back to the regular program at the half-way point of each fiscal year (April 1).
Of the total amount available each year, 90 percent is reserved for state level projects, with funding decisions to be made by the State NRCS Office with input from the State Technical Committee. As mentioned above, USDA is also directed to use its discretion in making the CCPI flexible enough to meet local circumstances and to allow preferential enrollment of farmers and ranchers who are involved with CCPI projects. Adjoining states could also get together on projects where the watershed or eco-region targeted crosses state boundaries.
The other 10 percent is awarded by NRCS headquarters in Washington, D.C. and likely reserved either for larger, multi-state regional projects or for projects addressing one or more priorities of the national office.
Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative Funding 
5 year cost
USDA is implementing the CCPI through an annual Request for Proposals (RFP) process. About $58 million in program assistance was available, including about $6 million reserved for national competition for multi-state projects. For the 2009 RFP, only EQIP and WHIP funding was available through CCPI. Starting in 2010, CSP funding should also be available through the special initiative.
The 2009 RFP was open for public comment through April 8, 2009. Those comments will be reviewed by the agency as they formulate the 2010 RFP, which has not yet been issued. In addition to general comments, NRCS requested public comments on how CCPI can best contribute to energy conservation, climate change mitigation, and carbon sequestration efforts. NSAC submitted comments on the RFP.
The State NRCS offices and the State Technical Committees have a major role to play in developing requests for proposals and a process for evaluating proposals and making awards state level CCPI projects.
In FY2009, NRCS made four national level awards to four multi-state projects to groups such as The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited. The names of the national awards as well as the amounts of CCPI funding by state can be viewed on the NRCS CCPI website (see below). You can also see CCPI awards at the state level by visiting the NRCS EQIP website (see below).
USDA Contact Information
Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ccpi/
Locate your state NRCS office: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/about/organization/regions.html#state
CCPI Program Contact: Mark Parsons, 202-720-1840, firstname.lastname@example.org.
 For purposes of estimating the value of CCPI funding each year, we have approximated and monetized the value of the CSP acreage reserved for CCPI projects, and then combined that sum with the EQIP and WHIP dollars that will be available. Also note that CCPI funding is reserved for CCPI special projects for the first 6 months of each fiscal year. If there are insufficient partnership awards, and remaining funds will be returned to the general pool of dollars (or acres in the case of CSP) available for the underlying program.