NB_440_21_24 - NB 440-21-24 PGM – Amendments of 2014 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Partnership Agreements
NB 440-21-24 PGM – Amendments of 2014 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Partnership Agreements
National Bulletin: 440-21-24 Date: June 25, 2021
Subject: PGM – Amendments of 2014 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Partnership Agreements

Purpose.   To outline the amendment process for RCPP partnership agreements executed under the 2014 Farm Bill. This amendment process does not apply to covered program producer contracts, easement agreements, or watershed agreements, nor does it apply to 2018 Farm Bill RCPP programmatic partnership agreements.   
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2022
Background.   RCPP 2014 Farm Bill partnership agreements are managed by the NRCS Lead State, in collaboration with lead partners. Proposed amendments to partnership agreements must be reviewed by the (FAPD) Projects Branch, and in some cases the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Business Center’s Grants and Agreements Division (GAD). These reviews are designed to limit the potential for amendments to violate RCPP policy. Ultimately, it is the Lead State’s responsibility to ensure amendments are processed to completion with GAD (if necessary).

This guidance applies to both cooperative agreements (CAs) and memoranda of understanding (MOU), either of which may serve as a partnership agreement for 2014 Farm Bill RCPP projects. RCPP CAs manage RCPP projects that include partner technical assistance (PTA). RCPP MOUs manage RCPP projects that do not include PTA.

Changes which increase or decrease the scope of a project are typically not permissible under RCPP authorities. These include changes that may have caused the initial proposal to rank significantly lower, such as changes to the project area, resource concerns, or changes that impact the viability of the overall project. NRCS may consider minor scope changes if they are deemed in the best interest of NRCS and the lead partner. NRCS may only extend an agreement once, for a maximum of 12 months.

Explanation.   Attachment B of this bulletin illustrates the workflow for processing proposed amendments. Attachment C of this bulletin provides guidance on how to submit a proposed amendment in the portal. In the portal this step is called an “Inquiry”. For all proposed amendments, lead States must complete the attached RCPP Amendment Checklist (Attachment A), which will guide the lead State through the amendment review process and ensure a complete inquiry package is submitted in the portal.

Note: The checklist auto-populates specific instructions including the need for supporting documentation. The checklist and supporting documentation may include updated project deliverables, updated statements of work, and updated agreement language.

The checklist is comprised of four sections.

1. The General Information section helps States identify project changes that should not be included in an amendment request (e.g., adjusted gross income waivers or adjustments of terms).
2. In the Financial Questions section, States must identify if the amendment includes a request for additional funds, a swap of existing funds with a different type of funds from the NHQ reserve, or transfer of funds between States. While the Projects Branch will work internally to obtain any necessary approvals for additional funds or fund swaps, the lead State should include any concurrences necessary for transfers between States.
3. The Schedule and Scope Questions section helps distinguish in-scope changes vs out-of-scope changes (which are rarely approved). Changes to deliverables should be submitted in the format used in the original agreement (statement of work, WBS, or for FY 2018 projects within the portal).
4. The State Recommendation is used to provide any additional information and to document the lead State’s recommended approval for the amendment.

Projects Branch staff reviews the proposed amendment and notifies the lead State of approval or disapproval. If approved, Projects Branch staff triggers any fund transfers and provides the lead State with guidance for finalizing the project amendment, which may include:

A. No amendment required.

B. An amendment permitted through a memo to the official project file.  When the amendment does not require GAD review, the lead State must upload a memo for the record in the RCPP portal (see Attachment C for instructions).

C. A formal amendment is required via GAD (ServiceNow).

         a. Formal amendments are submitted to GAD and require a copy of the NHQ-approved amendment checklist and supporting documentation.
         b. Following GAD execution of the amendment, the lead State is responsible for uploading the final approved amendment to the RCPP portal (see Attachment C for instructions).

Note: If any updates are needed to the RCPP project record contact the FAPD Projects Branch through RCPP@usda.gov.

Contact.   Please direct questions on this bulletin to the Program Questions section of the FAPD SharePoint.


Deputy Chief for Programs

Attachment A - RCPP Partnership Amendment Checklist

Attachment B – RCPP Amendment Processing Workflow

Attachment C – Portal Instructions for Submitting an RCPP Project Inquiry

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