The State of Vermont received a $16 million grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in 2015. In 2020, this grant was extended for five years with an additional $10 million in assistance to farmers and forest landowners. This program provides financial and technical assistance for the development and implementation of water quality improvement throughout Vermont. Funds are available for agricultural and forestry best management practices, for wetland restoration, and for agricultural, wetland, and forestry easements.
Priority is given to smaller farms and forest operations for practice implementation with a focus on agronomic and forestry water quality improvement practices, grazing, and feed management. Unique opportunities through RCPP include the following:
- Many practices are covered at 100% payment rate, based on the NRCS Practice List.
- If you meet certain practice requirements (e.g., implementing a cover crop early) you may be eligible for an additional incentive payment.
- RCPP practices are not included in the $450,000 NRCS Farm Bill cap. You have a maximum of $450,000 in RCPP as well.
- RCPP applications are in a separate funding pool, greatly increasing your chance of funding with less competition.
Follow the links below for additional information.
Land Management Activities
Agricultural and forestry practices that directly relate to water quality improvement can be funded under RCPP. The list of practices that have been submitted to NRCS and are expected to be approved for funding at 100% of cost is available on the NRCS website. Some examples include grazing practices, cover crops, reduced tillage, stream crossing, forest trails and landings, and tree/shrub establishment.
Easements in the RCPP program can be at three levels: highly restrictive (payment is up to 100% of the appraised value), moderately restrictive (up to 75% of appraised value), and minimally restrictive (up to 50% of appraised value.) The landowner selects the level of restriction based on their desired future use of the property. Additionally, any water quality related restoration work done on the land prior to the easement is funded at 100% of cost.
Agricultural and Forestry Easements
Agricultural and forestry easements have greater flexibility than traditional NRCS ACEP-ALE (Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Ag Land Easement) and can include more forestry protection. (Image, center right, of a riparian buffer along the Missisquoi River. Photo credit: Vermont Land Trust.)
Applications for this round of funding are due by February 2nd, 2024. To apply, please complete the NRCS-CPA-1200 application and submit it to your local NRCS office. For additional assistance please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wetland easements are prioritized based on size, recognizing the need for protection on smaller wetlands (priority is given to projects between 10-50 acres.) Only passive restoration (e.g., tree and shrub plantings) is allowed. Any active restoration projects should consider the ACEP-WRE (Wetland Restoration Easement) program. (Image, bottom right. Photo credit: Vermont Land Trust)
All Vermont farm and forest landowners are eligible, however strong priority for agricultural practice funding is given to small farmers (CSFO and SFO.) Easement prioritization is based on water quality protection value and availability of funding.
Landowners who are interested in this RCPP program are encouraged to reach out to the contracted RCPP planners with the VT Association of Conservation District and Redstart Forestry, Inc. General programmatic questions may be directed to: Kait Jones, Agricultural Grant Program Coordinator, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, email@example.com, 802-505-1635.
USADA/NRCS has funded additional RCPP projects that impact Vermont landowners. Project details and links to further information are available on the NRCS website.