NB_300_21_51 - NB 300-21-51 LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Land Management and Rental (LMR) Producer Contract Development and Obligation
NB 300-21-51 LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Land Management and Rental (LMR) Producer Contract Development and Obligation
National Bulletin: 300-21-51 Date: September 3, 2021
Subject: LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Land Management and Rental (LMR) Producer Contract Development and Obligation

Purpose.   To provide guidance for contract development and obligation for RCPP LMR producer contracts.   
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2022
Background.   The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) authorized NRCS to enter into RCPP contracts with producers to address resource concerns. NRCS issued guidance for application processing through National Bulletin 300-21-24, “Guidance for Fiscal Year 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program Land Management and Rental Sign-up,” and National Bulletin 300- 21-43, “Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Land Management (LM) and Rental Application Selections and Eligibility Documentation,” in preparation for contract obligation.
Explanation.   State conservationists and directors of the Pacific Islands and Caribbean Areas will use the guidance within this national bulletin to finalize contract documents, make manual final eligibility determinations, and provide to National Headquarters (NHQ) documentation needed to complete a bulk obligation process for LMR producer contracts. States must use this bulletin in conjunction with the following:

• RCPP rule at 7 CFR Part 1464;
• Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual, Part 530 primarily Subpart C, “Application for Assistance;” Subpart E, “Contract Development and Requirements;” and Subpart O, “Exhibits;”
• National Instruction (NI) 440-310, “NRCS Program Ranking through Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART);”
• NB 300-21-24 and NB 300-21-43;
• Appendix to Form NRCS-CPA-1202, “Conservation Program Contract,” for RCPP LMR producer contracts (NB 300-21-17, Attachment E);
• Project-specific RCPP programmatic agreements; and
• Other documents posted on the RCPP SharePoint site.

LMR contracting authority is project specific. NRCS only allows new program contract obligations during the term of the programmatic partnership agreement (PPA) for which RCPP funds are budgeted and must be consistent with the terms of the PPA for which State received RCPP funding.

The new RCPP manual and updates to 440-CPM-530, will incorporate applicable 2018 RCPP policy guidance once published.

Manual processes outlined in the guidance below may be replaced once additional software functionality is released as directed by NHQ.

RCPP LMR producer contract development

1. Responsibilities and Delegations
• State conservationists will follow guidance in 440-CPM-530.3, “Delegation Authority,” to document delegations for actions required to obligate LMR producer contracts.
• States must ensure they follow all applicable separation of duties throughout the contracting process since NRCS does not currently have electronic system controls in place to monitor this.

2. Final Eligibility Determinations
• Verify that all LMR producer contract participants comply with producer, land, and program eligibility requirements in NB 300-21-24 and 440-CPM-530-C,
• Use attachment A, “RCPP18 LMR Producer Contracts Eligibility Determination Chart,” to determine that each contract participant meets the mandatory basic eligibility requirements including compliance with the following—
  o Highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions;
  o Adjusted gross income (AGI) payment limitations unless a waiver is approved by the FAPD division director prior to contract obligation. See 440-CPM-530.7 for waiver guidance and NI 440-314, “Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Waiver Process.”
• Confirm that participants have effective control of the land.
• Confirm that the LMR producer contract complies with project specific requirements in the PPA and in the applicable Notice of Funding Opportunity (NFO).

3. Reviews and Quality Assurance
• Field offices must complete attachment B, “RCPP18 LMR Producer Contract Preobligation Checklist.”
• States must use attachment C, “RCPP18 LMR Producer Contract CD Transactions Obligation Checklist,” to document review of 100 percent of all LMR producer contracts prior to obligation. State review must ensure LMR producer contracts are valid, consistent with the terms of the RCPP PPA (including LMR exhibit expectations and deliverable based budget), and with RCPP program authorities.
• States must conduct second level obligation reviews consistent with agency policy. See 440-CPM-530-E-530.41E, “Contract Obligation,” for additional guidance.

4. Contract Limitations
• LMR producer contracts with a person or legal entity must not exceed $450,000 over the term of the contract. Each LMR producer contract with a joint operation (Farm Service Agency business type 2 or 3) and group projects must not exceed $900,000. See RCPP LMR producer contract appendix and NB-300-21-24. Note: Indian Tribes and Alaska Native corporations are not subject to contract limits.
• Planners must manually calculate and enter applicable payment caps on the NRCS-CPA- 1155 following training provided by NHQ. These caps must be used to ensure the contract does not exceed the applicable contract limit and to apply commensurate AGI reductions due to ineligible members. See 440-CPM-530-F-530.50G for more information related to payment caps. Contact NHQ for guidance, if needed.

5. Contract Development Requirements
• See 440-CPM-530-E-530.42 for a list of required contract documents and filing requirements. See the obligation process below for additional documents that must be uploaded to the document management system (DMS) as part of the bulk obligation process.
Schedule of Operations—RCPP allows a practice, enhancement, or rental activity to be scheduled on the same land multiple times as long as each instance addresses a resource concern. Participant can earn payment multiple times provided that the schedule of operations and contracted items meet the following:
  • Supports the PPA objectives,
  • Provides for demonstrable outcomes, and
  • Meets applicable activity requirements (e.g., each contract item addresses at least one resource concern identified in the PPA).

Reminder: 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. See 440-CPM-530-F-530.51C(1).

Vendors—Vendor records must be available in the Financial Management Modernization Initiative (FMMI) system for the bulk obligation process. States can use ProTracts vendor records if they exist for the participant. If a ProTracts vendor record does not exist, States will need to establish the participant vendor record through myFPAC Services. States can access myFPAC Services at https://usdafpacbc.servicenowservices.com/fpac and use the Financial Management module with request type “Vendor Coordination,” request type subcategory “Vendor,” and upload the completed attachment D, “Vendor Coordination Request Form,” for each participant that needs a vendor record.
Funds Availability and Verification—State financial management staff must document funds availability by completing and signing attachment E, “Funding Availability and Verification Worksheet,” prior to the State NRCS approving official signing forms NRCS-CPA-1202, “Conservation Program Contract” and NRCS-CPA- 1155, “Schedule of Operations”. States must upload signed attachment E to DMS as part of the obligation package.
Contract Length—The maximum allowable contract length for RCPP LMR producer contracts is 10-years. However, typically LMR producer contracts should be shorter to support shared NRCS/partner responsibility to ensure that each PPA delivers targeted project outcomes by the end of its term.

6. Contract Documents and Signature Requirements
• Follow the guidance in attachment F, “High Level Steps for the Obligation of LMR Producer Contracts,” which identifies required contract documents and explains the sequence for obtaining required signatures on NRCS-CPA-1155 and NRCS-CPA-1202.
• See 440-CPM-530-C-530.25 and NB-440-21-2, “Guide to Program Flexibilities due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19“) National Emergency,” for signature documentation and electronic signature guidance.
• The field office must provide RCPP LMR participants with a copy of all contract documents, including standards, specifications, designs, rental activity implementation requirements, or other documents, required for the participant to implement practices or activities included in their contracts.

7. Conservation Desktop (CD)
• States will generate the NRCS-CPA-1155 contract document in CD and use the information to populate attachment G, NRCS-CPA-1202, manually prior to obtaining participant signatures.
• States must manually record the following in the CD Applications and Agreements module as determined from hard-copy forms:
  • Eligibility determinations as documented on the participant’s Subsidiary Report.
  • Participant self-certification of historically underserved status.
  • Participant signature and date from NRCS-CPA-1155, NRCS-CPA-1202, and the 1202 appendix.
    Note: Where there may be more than one participant who signed on different dates, enter into CD the latest date a participant signed.
  • NRCS approving official signature and date (this is the obligation date) from NRCS- CPA-1155 and NRCS-CPA-1202.
• States will generate a CD application and agreement report for all active agreements in CD ready for recording the obligation in FMMI.

8. Obligation Package
Once States have an active agreement record in CD they will—
• Prepare the obligation package using attachment C, “RCPP18 LMR CD Transactions Obligation Checklist” and attachment H “APSB Submission Checklist” and upload as a single PDF into DMS using the naming convention, ”[CDAgreementID]_Obligation Package.” Attachment I provides States with the lesson plan for the DMS upload.
• Submit the CD application/agreement report to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov once a day, as applicable, through September 23, 2021, for FY 2021 obligations.
The NHQ obligation team will—
• Review the obligation packages for completeness and accuracy and populate the bulk obligation spreadsheet.
• Submit the obligation spreadsheet to the FPAC Business Center, Financial Management Division, Financial Operations Branch, Payment Operations Section for the obligations to be recorded directly in FMMI.
• Populate the FMMI obligation number in CD once the FPAC Business Center has recorded the obligation in FMMI.
• Notify States via email from the RCPP18Easements@usda.gov about obligation status as completed or when follow-up is needed with the actions States must take to resolve the findings.

9. Allocation Monitoring
• States must monitor fund balances to ensure program funding allocated for a project is not exceeded and is managed within PPA activity type budget parameters.

10. Deadlines
• States must submit all FY 2021 LMR producer contract obligation packages by September 23, 2021.
To meet the National obligation deadline, States must immediately elevate any issues delaying obligations.

11. Training
The CD applications and agreements development team provided training to States on August 18, 2021. The recording of the training (part 2) can be found at: https://usdagcc.sharepoint.com/sites/nrcs_programs/Farm%20Bill%20Training%20Webin ars/Forms/AllItems.aspx?viewid=623d853f%2Dab50%2D4114%2D8196%2D5e12f4744f4 5&id=%2Fsites%2Fnrcs%5Fprograms%2FFarm%20Bill%20Training%20Webinars%2FWeb inar%20Recordings%2F08%2019%202020.
Contact.   Direct policy questions about this bulletin to the FAPD SharePoint site and bulk obligation process questions by email to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov.


Deputy Chief for Programs

Attachment A – RCPP18 LMR Producer Contracts Eligibility Determination Chart

Attachment B – RCPP18 LMR Producer Contract Preobligation Checklist

Attachment C – RCPP18 LMR Producer Contract CD Transactions Obligation Checklist

Attachment D – Vendor Coordination Request Form

Attachment E – Funding Availability and Verification Worksheet

Attachment F – High Level Steps for the Obligation of LMR Producer Contracts

Attachment G – NRCS-CPA-1202, “Conservation Program Contract”

Attachment H – APSB Submission Checklist

Attachment I – Lesson Plan: Upload Bulk Obligation Package to the Conservation Desktop (CD) Document Management (DM) System

[NB_300_21_51 - ]