NB_300_21_24 - NB 300-21-24 LTP – Guidance for Fiscal Year 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program Land Management and Rental Signup
NB 300-21-24 LTP – Guidance for Fiscal Year 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program Land Management and Rental Signup
National Bulletin: 300-21-24    Date: April 8, 2021  
Subject: LTP – Guidance for Fiscal Year 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program Land Management and Rental Signup 


   
 
Purpose.   To provide guidance for accepting and evaluating applications for fiscal year (FY) 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) land management (LM) and rental producer contracts.  
 
Expiration Date.   December 31, 2021   
 
Background.   Pursuant to changes made to RCPP by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), NRCS is authorized in RCPP Classic projects to provide RCPP financial assistance via producer contracts and supplemental agreements (with partners). This bulletin provides guidance on LM and rental producer contracts.          
 

Explanation.   Producers interested in financial assistance to implement conservation practices or enhancement activities that address objectives of an approved RCPP programmatic partnership agreement (PPA) may now apply for an RCPP LM or rental producer contract.

State conservationists and directors of the Pacific Islands and Caribbean Areas will use the guidance within this national bulletin to prepare for and implement the FY 2021 RCPP signups for LM and rental applications, in conjunction with the following:
• RCPP rule at 7 CFR Part 1464;
• Contracting policy contained in Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 530, “Working Lands Conservation Programs Manual,” as applicable;
• National Instruction (NI) 440-310, “NRCS Program Ranking through Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART),” and applicable exhibits;
• Appendix to Form NRCS-CPA-1202, “Conservation Program Contract,” for RCPP LM and rental contracts;
• Training materials;
• Project-specific parameters of applicable RCPP project(s); and
• Signup documents posted on the RCPP SharePoint.

The 2018 Farm Bill RCPP policy manual (440-CPM, Part 531), currently under development, will incorporate applicable guidance once published.

Note: Guidance for other 2018 Farm Bill RCPP activities and contract types will be issued separately.

FY 2021 RCPP LM and rental producer contract signup actions

1. State Web Page Update

  • States must update their State web pages in accordance with policy in 440-CPM-530-B-530.12, as applicable, to publicize active RCPP project geographic boundaries, targeted conservation benefits, applicable resource concerns, and available activities.

  • States are encouraged to link directly to the national RCPP web page to include non-State-specific information.

2. Application

  • Use Form NRCS-CPA-1200, “Conservation Program Application,” dated 3/2019 for FY 2021 RCPP LM and rental applications. The generic RCPP check box must be used to identify interest for 2018 Farm Bill LM and rental applications.

    Note: NRCS may also accept RCPP applications submitted through Farmers.gov. For these applications, NRCS must follow up with the applicant to determine under which Farm Bill RCPP program they are seeking financial assistance (e.g., 2014 Farm Bill RCPP Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), RCPP-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), or 2018 Farm Bill LM and rental).

  • For 2018 Farm Bill LM and rental applications, NRCS must manually document on Form NRCS-CPA-1200 the following:

    • The specific 4-digit RCPP project number, and

    • The activity type, which may include LM, rental, or both.  

  • Producers must submit an RCPP application on or before the State-established application cutoff date in order to be considered for funding.

  • Field offices will enter all applications into the Conservation Desktop (CD) application module upon release of updated CD functionality to support the RCPP. Additional training will be provided once CD application functionality is available. Until that time, customer files may be created to support planning and assessment (but not application selection).

    Note: Do not enter RCPP LM and rental applications in ProTracts. Continue to use ProTracts to enter applications received for the 2014 Farm Bill RCPP projects, RCPP-CSP and RCPP-EQIP.

  • An applicant may apply for multiple RCPP LM and rental contracts.

     

    Note:  Where a single Form NRCS-CPA-1200 denotes applicant interest in multiple RCPP projects, multiple applications/application numbers may be created based on a single RCPP application. Follow policy in 440-CPM-530-C-530.23A, “Submitting Applications.” An applicant interested in pursuing multiple RCPP project funding opportunities will be assessed and ranked in each project ranking pool for which interest is denoted on an application.

3. Eligibility

  • Producer Eligibility.—Refer to 440-CPM, 530-C, “Application for Assistance,” and attachment A, “RCPP LM and Rental Eligibility Matrix,” of this bulletin for producer eligibility requirements.  

     

    Note:  Water Management Entities (WMEs) defined in 440-CPM-530-C-530.20C(5) are not eligible applicants under RCPP LM and rental producer contracts as a WME. However, an entity that meets eligibility as a producer of eligible land and which qualifies as an eligible business type may be eligible for an RCPP LM or rental producer contract.

     

  • Land Eligibility.—Land may be eligible for enrollment in RCPP if NRCS determines that the land is controlled by an eligible applicant, and either is—

    • Private or Tribal agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, or associated land on which an eligible activity would help achieve the conservation benefits defined for an approved project; or

    • Publicly owned agricultural land or associated land and the enrollment of such land is—

      • Consistent with the eligibility requirements outlined within the appropriate notice of funding opportunity;

      • Appropriate for the type of eligible activity; and 

      • The eligible activity to be implemented on the public land is necessary and will contribute meaningfully to achieving conservation benefits consistent with an approved PPA.

         

  • Activity Eligibility

    • LM activities include NRCS-approved conservation practices and enhancements.

       

      Note: CSP enhancement bundles and existing activity payments offered in CSP are not authorized or available in LM contracts.

        

    • Rental activities must comply with the project-specific rental activity requirements approved by NRCS and developed in collaboration with RCPP project lead partner. Refer to “Rental Activity Payments” sub-bullet in item 8 below.

       

4. Screening Tools

States may use screening tools in accordance with policy in 440-CPM-530-D-530.32 to support RCPP signups. In addition to the policy outlined in 440-CPM-530-D-530.32A(3), if a State uses a screening tool to facilitate RCPP project ranking it must also be consistent with the project-specific RCPP PPA developed to inform all project activities. PPA-related considerations with potential to affect use of screening tools include:

    • RCPP screening tools should support (or not prevent) prioritization of any specific applications identified as exempt from ranking in PPA exhibits (PPA Exhibit 1, “Land Management Activity Expectations,” and Exhibit 2, “Rental Activity Expectations”).

    • RCPP screening tools may not be used to amplify the importance of “partner bundling” of producer applications which, as outlined in ranking section below, is limited to providing no more than 25 percent of CART program ranking points.

5. Conservation Planning

  • Refer to planning guidance in 440-CPM-530-D, “Application Processing.”   

  • States must use CD to identify planning land units, create practice schedules, and develop conservation plans and maps to support the contract obligation.

     

6. Assessment

  • Planners must assess all RCPP applications using CART.

  • NRCS will evaluate the application with respect to addressing resource concerns present at the time of application. This evaluation may include existing conservation practices and new conservation practices or activities that the participant is willing to implement to address the resource concerns identified onsite.

     

7. Ranking

  • States must rank applications using CART.

  • States must use the guidance provided in NI-440-310, and applicable RCPP exhibits to establish their CART ranking pools. States are reminded of the following:

    • “Partner-bundled” applications may not receive more than 25 percent of CART program points. Ranking pool may not be used to prioritize partner-bundled applications above nonbundled applications which such prioritization would circumvent the 25-percent cap on bundled applications.

    • States must use the naming convention in NI-440-310. LM and rental ranking pools must be named according to the following convention:

       

      (4-digit RCPP Id) (Activity Type: LMR) (Award Type: Producer or Supplemental) (Optional: Fiscal Year), e.g., 1234 LMR Producer (where 4-digit RCPP project id is “1234”)

       

  • For multi-State PPAs, the lead State is responsible for coordinating with the partner States involved in the project area to ensure consistency with an approved PPA and appropriate similarity of ranking criteria, evaluation, and implementation processes.

     

    Note: States cannot complete application selection in the Select Application Tool until additional functionality is available and guidance is provided.

     

8. Payment and Contract Limit

  • NRCS will make RCPP financial assistance payments to participants based on written participant request on Form NRCS-CPA-1245, “Practice Approval and Payment Application,” upon completion and certification that the conservation practices or activities meet applicable NRCS standards and requirements.

  • Contract Limit.—Each LM and rental contract with a person or legal entity is limited to $450,000 over the term of the contract, and each LM and rental contract with a joint operation (Farm Service Agency business type 2 or 3) or group projects may have a contract limit of up to $900,000.

    • The RCPP LM and rental contract appendix provides the contract terms, including contract limits; refer to NB 300-21-17, “FY 2021 Agricultural Management Assistance, CSP, CSP-Grassland Conservation Initiative, EQIP, and 2018 Farm Bill RCPP LM and Rental Contract Appendix to Form NRCS-CPA-1202, ‘Conservation Program Contract’” (attachment E).

    • States do not need to request a contract limit waiver from the FAPD division director for joint operations to receive the higher contract limit.

    • The contract limitation will not increase due to the change in business type for contract transfers from a person or legal entity to a joint operation.

    • Indian Tribal ventures, which include Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, are not subject to contract limits.

       

      Note: NRCS will not issue financial assistance to a participant if the participant receives payments for the same eligible activity on the same land under any other conservation program administered by USDA. Refer to 440-CPM-530.51C(1).  

       

  • Rental Activity Payments

    • The following rental activity types are new and will be used to make payments for RCPP projects involving rental activities:

       

      • RFRN.—Financial assistance (FA) rental payment based on NRCS-defined model

      • RFRP.—FA rental payment based on negotiated project-specific model

 

Note: Refer to attachment B, “RCPP Rental Activity Guidance” of this bulletin for additional guidance on RCPP rental activity payments and required use of attachments C, “RCPP Rental Activity Worksheet,” and D, “RFRP Payment Scenario Justification Worksheet.”

9. RCPP-LM and Rental Contract Development

Additional guidance is forthcoming for development of contract documents in CD and the obligation process.

.

10. Allocation Monitoring

  • 2018 Farm Bill RCPP allocations will be based on negotiated project budgets. LM and rental activity funds must be managed in accordance with approved PPA deliverables and exhibits (including but not limited to project, State, and contract-type basis).

  • For multi-State projects, the lead State is responsible for managing the PPA with the lead partner and for coordinating with partner States involved in the project to ensure program funding is managed within project parameters (including but not limited to deliverable budgets and exhibit expectations).

11. Deadlines

  • States have flexibility to establish FY 2021 signup deadlines for each project in coordination with the lead partner.

  • Signups can start as soon as they are announced on the State’s website and must run for at least 30 days. Refer to 440-CPM-530-A-530.12B for additional guidance.  

  • Final obligation deadlines will be conveyed with future contracting guidance.   

     

12. Training

The RCPP Team will provide training to the States to support implementation of this guidance throughout the fiscal year.

 
Contact.  Direct questions regarding this bulletin to the FAPD SharePoint site.     
 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs
       
 

Attachment A - RCPP LM Rental Participant Eligibility Matrix

Attachment B - RCPP Rental Activity Guidance

Attachment C - RCPP Rental Activity Worksheet

Attachment D - RFRP Payment Scenario Justification Worksheet

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