USDA has announced an investment of up to $235 million to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. Funding is being made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the newest conservation tool of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

RCPP, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with partners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local collaborators, along with the federal government, invest funding and staff to projects to maximize their impact. RCPP helps USDA build on already-record enrollment in conservation programs, with over 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.

This will be the second round of projects funded through RCPP. Last year, more than 600 pre-proposals were submitted nationally. Out of 115 high-impact proposals selected for funding, three were from Connecticut – one national and two state projects.

According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, “This is a new, innovative approach to conservation. This initiative allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for their communities. These public-private partnerships can have an impact that’s well beyond what the federal government could accomplish on its own. These efforts keep our land and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, and other industries.”

Vilsack continued, “We had tremendous interest from partners when we first launched this program last year. In this new round of applications, we’ll be looking for even greater emphasis on expanding partnerships that break down barriers, work across boundaries, leverage resources, and create new opportunities for innovation.”

USDA is now accepting proposals for RCPP and pre-proposals are due July 8.