Posted by Martha Noble, NSAC’s Senior Policy Analyst
On Tuesday, March 10, the Natural Resources Conservation Service,(NRCS) issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), one of NSAC’s priority issues from the 2008 Farm Bill. The RFA is posted here.
The Initiative provides farmers and ranchers with project-based conservation program funding to participate in projects that enhance conservation outcomes on agricultural and nonforest industrial land.
CCPI project applications must be submitted by April 23, 2009.
In addition, NRCS is taking public comments on the RFA through April 8, 2009.
CCPI Projects: Eligible applicants include federally recognized Indian Tribes, State and local units of government, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, institutions of higher education, and nongovernmental organizations with a history of working cooperatively with producers to effectively address conservation priorities related to agricultural production and nonindustrial private forest land.
NRCS will be drawing only on EQIP and WHIP funding for CCPI funding in FY2009, although the 2008 Farm Bill also provides that fund and acres can be drawn from the Conservation Stewardship Program as well. The CSP portion of CCPI will be available in the FY2010 RFA.
A total of $52.4 million total is available in FY 2009 (until September 30, 2009) for farmers and ranchers to be enrolled in WHIP and EQIP via participation in a CCPI project. The NRCS Chief will control $5.8 million of the funding for national and multi-state projects and the rest will be provided for state level projects.
NRCS will enter into partnership agreements with project applicants selected for an Initiative. Project applicants can identify geographic regions or particular farmers and ranchers whose participation on EQIP or WHIP can enhance the project. State Conservationists can agree to apply the rules of WHIP or EQIP in a flexible manner if it furthers the conservation goals of the project. Partnership project proposals should include requests for specific flexibilities, such as modified ranking systems, payment rates, or design standards.
Let NSAC Know If You Are Applying for Funds for a CCPI Project: NSAC played a leading role in getting the CCPI into the Farm Bill and will continue to track how it is being used in conservation projects that include sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers. Please contact Martha Noble at NSAC, email@example.com, if your organization is submitting a CCPI project application.
CCPI Public Comments: NRCS is taking public comments on the RFA through April 8, 2009. Public comments will help inform the implementation of the initiative in 2009 and also will be considered as next year’s RFA is developed.
NSAC is preparing an Action Alert and talking points for public comments which we will post next week. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some initial reactions.
We are pleased to see that the RFA includes a priority for projects that provide for outreach to, and participation of, beginning farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, limited resource farmers or ranchers, and Indian Tribes within the area covered by the agreement, as required by farm bill administrative requirements for all conservation programs.
But we are concerned that State Conservationists are not directed by the RFA to seek advice from State Technical Committees about CCPI projects in the state. State Technical Committees were constructively utilized in many states in developing and ranking projects under the 2002 Farm Bill’s Partnerships and Cooperative Initiative, the precursor to CCPI.
In addition, we are supportive of the inclusion of specific ranking priority for projects that would further the Nation’s efforts with renewable energy production, energy conservation, mitigating the effects of climate change, facilitating climate change adaptation, or fostering carbon sequestration.
However, we are concerned that the RFA does not include a priority for projects which simultaneously provide major conservation and environmental benefits and community and economic benefits. Such win-win green projects advance important common objectives in a cost-effective manner.
Finally, we also note the RFA ignores the CCPI purpose specified in the 2008 Farm Bill of funding innovative conservation practices and delivery methods for specialty crop and organic production/producers. Organic oriented projects should be encouraged and submitted in 2009 and then we will see about getting that specified in the 2010 RFA to be totally clear.