NB_440_21_30 - NB 440-21-30 PGM – Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Program Roll Out Guidance
NB 440-21-30 PGM – Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Program Roll Out Guidance
National Bulletin: 440-21-30 Date: August 31, 2021
Subject: PGM – Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Program Roll Out Guidance


 
 

Purpose.  To provide guidance to States on Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 program roll out actions and announcements, and identify unique FY 2022 topics that will be covered in forthcoming guidance to State Conservationists (STCs) and the Directors of the Caribbean and Pacific Islands Areas.   

 

Expiration Date.  September 30, 2022

 

Background.  Each year, States must roll out conservation programs based on national allocations for discretionary, mandatory, and repealed programs as determined by Congress. Allowance holders must ensure that funds allocated to States are properly obligated and meet agency milestones and targets.

 

Explanation.  States may begin the required FY 2022 pre-obligation actions in FY 2021 without further authorization from National Headquarters (NHQ) as soon as practicable, except as identified below.

The following non-exhaustive list identifies actions that staff can take now to ensure efficient program implementation in FY 2022. This list also identifies the programs or program components for which States do not have authorization to proceed with FY 2022 activities at this time. For policies specific to each program, refer to:

  • Title 440 - Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 527 - Easement Common Provisions for all easement programs and components
  • Title 440-CPM, Part 528 - Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
  • Title 440-CPM, Part 529 - Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
  • Title 440-CPM, Part 530 - Working Lands Conservation Programs Manual (Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP))

States, and as applicable the Easement Acquisitions Branch, can take the following actions as of the date of publication of this bulletin and into FY 2022 to deliver NRCS conservation programs efficiently in FY 2022:

1.   Conservation Planning and Programs Delivery

a.  Continue program-neutral planning activities for all programs.

b.  Continue with contract management, quality assurance, reporting, and spot-checking activities.

2.   Outreach Efforts

a.  Include Climate Smart Forestry and Agriculture, Racial Equity, and Urban Agriculture priorities when developing funding announcements and creating ranking pools.

b.  Continue State Technical Committee Meetings to identify State priorities and program-delivery strategies.

c.   Review and update websites and outreach materials (440-CPM-528.10, 529.50, and 530.5).

3.   Application Cut-off Deadlines

a.  At this time, States may announce application cut-off deadlines for:

• ACEP

• AMA

• EQIP

• CSP-Classic

• 2014 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP 2014) covered program sign-ups under existing, active RCPP 2014 Agreements

• 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP 2018) activities for which sign-up and ranking policy is available (Land Management, Rental, and Entity-Held Easement Program Agreements) (440-CPM-528.40, 530.12, and 530.36)

b.   States may announce application cut-off deadlines for any RCPP 2018 project only after the Programmatic Partnership Agreement (PPA) has been approved and executed by all required parties.

c.  For the following, States may not announce application cut-off deadlines until applicable policy has been published and National Headquarters (NHQ) has provided written authorization to proceed:

• EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC)

• RCPP 2018 US-Held Easements;

• RCPP 2018 parcel applications for individual Entity-Held Easements for either standard transactions or Buy-Protect-Sell transactions; or

• Other new programs, components, or enrollment types that may require later application cut-off deadlines to accommodate evolving program development.

4.   Eligibility Determinations

a.  Begin to review land and participant eligibility.

• States can complete land eligibility in FY 2021 and into FY 2022 for most programs, and

• States should complete producer or landowner eligibility as soon as practicable in FY 2022.

Note: States may set internal deadlines for completing eligibility determinations.

b.  Acquire and review due diligence products such as environmental records searches and title commitments as part of land eligibility for easement programs.

• For RCPP 2018 easement types, do not provide final approval for due diligence products before receiving further guidance from NHQ.

• Due diligence may be obtained and reviewed for all other easement types in all other programs with existing authorities and guidance.

5.   Assessment and Ranking

a.   Utilize Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART)

• Create ranking pools when NHQ updates national ranking templates or provides new program guidance, RCPP partnership agreement executions or amendments occur, or State has new priorities (see NI-300-310). States should not activate their FY 2022 pools until after October 1, due to the workload of declining ranking pools.

Note: National ranking templates for ACEP-ALE and ACEP-WRE will not be updated for FY 2022 and States are encouraged to meet with their State Technical Committees and local workgroups about FY 2022 priorities and then create their ranking pools.

• Continue assessments after release of FY 2022 updates of Resource Concern Assessment and Conservation Activity Practice Points. Reassessments use prior assessment data to develop FY 2022 assessments.

b.  Incorporate Departmental Priorities into FY 2022 Ranking

• When creating ranking pools consider USDA’s priorities of Climate Smart Forestry and Agriculture, Urban Agriculture, and addressing racial equity issues.

• Consider the unintended impacts ranking factors may have on socially disadvantaged producers. Review whether questions about the size or acreage of a property, match funding, or questions that speak to economic capability or ability are creating barriers to participation by socially disadvantaged producers. States can also do this by asking whether the ranking questions bias selection towards specific groups or whether they are eliminating areas of potential program growth.

c.   Publish ranking criteria and provide Historically Undeserved (HU) producers and participants an opportunity to discuss and ask questions in appropriate and inclusive forums.

d.  Update costs lists for FY 2022. States should update FY 2022 costs lists for easement following the publication of the FY 2022 national bulletin on easement costs lists.

6.   Workload Prioritization Tool

a.  Consider using the new (optional) workload prioritization tool in Conservation Desktop (CD) to develop high-medium-low categories for processing applications in order to help manage workload and meet agency targets. Please refer to forthcoming Workload Prioritization Tool directive for more information.

b.   Follow 440-CPM-530.32 whenever using a workload prioritization tool for any program as applicable.

c.   Please note that States must rank all ACEP-ALE applications received by an application cut-off deadline prior to the selection of any of those applications. States must also rank ACEP-WRE applications received for consideration in FY 2022, before the end of the FY 2022.

Until further notice and as described in this NB, States must not proceed with activities for FY 2022 EQIP CIC, or execution of RCPP 2018 producer contracts for US-Held Easements or RCPP 2018 parcel contracts for Entity-Held Easements.

 

Contact.  Questions should be directed to Kelly Ireland, Branch Chief, Easement Policy Branch at kelly.ireland@usda.gov or Michael Whitt, Branch Chief, Financial Assistance Policy Branch, at michael.whitt@usda.gov

 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs

 
 
     
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