USDA 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 available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP); pre-proposals are due July 8.

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.

This new, innovative approach to conservation 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.

Because of the tremendous interest from partners last year, USDA be looking for even greater emphasis on expanding partnerships that break down barriers, work across boundaries, leverage resources, and create new opportunities for innovation in the new round of applications.