Farm Bill is Ready for President’s Signature

The new Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) has passed the House and the Senate and is now awaiting the President’s signature.  The final language in the Bill did not change from the House version that was passed last week — see last week’s ASDWA Weekly Update article for more information on USDA program reorganization and funding amounts, particularly for state rural water association technical assistance and rural development.  Also, see related article (following) on the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  To read the language in the full Farm Bill, go to:

New RCPP Program Created under the New Farm Bill

The new Farm Bill language prioritizes nutrient management activities for funding within a newly created Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  The Healthy Waters Coalition (which ASDWA is a member of) advocated for the RCPP to strengthen the links between our working agricultural lands and the quality of our Nation’s waters.  The RCPP replaces four existing conservation programs: the Agricultural Enhancement Program, Chesapeake Bay watershed program, the Great Lakes program for soil erosion and sediment control, and the cooperative conservation partnership initiative.

The RCPP is designed to support partnerships between farmers and non-farming entities, including municipal water and wastewater utilities, to help implement innovative nutrient management practices as an alternative to installing additional treatment technologies at the utility.  Funding for this program is being made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and the Healthy Forests Reserve Program.  This funding goes directly to agricultural producers, though partnering organizations can leverage this funding with other non-Federal funds.  Additional responsibilities of eligible partners include: conducting outreach and education to producers for potential participation in the program; assisting producers to apply for assistance, if requested; leveraging financial or technical assistance; assessing project effectiveness; and reporting results.

We anticipate that USDA will begin implementation of the RCPP shortly after the legislation is enacted and possibly issue a call for applications before the end of the year (see attached NACWA document for more information about the RCPP).  State drinking water programs may wish to work with their utilities to take advantage of this new RCPP partnership opportunity.