NB_300_22_48 - NB 300-22-48 LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity Held-Easement Parcel Contract Development and Obligation
NB 300-22-48 LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity Held-Easement Parcel Contract Development and Obligation
National Bulletin: 300-22-48  
Date: July 13, 2022 
Subject: LTP – Guidance for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity Held-Easement Parcel Contract Development and Obligation 


 
Purpose.   To provide guidance for development and obligation of 2018 Farm Bill RCPP (RCPP18) Entity-Held Easement Parcel Contracts.     
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2023  
 
Background.   This national bulletin (NB) provides the guidance needed to generate and manage RCPP Entity-held easement Parcel Contracts using Conservation Desktop (CD). A bulk obligation process will be used to obligate the RCPP financial assistance (FA) funds to be provided as the Federal share toward the purchase of the easement. RCPP18 Entity-held easements are managed entirely in CD and are not entered into the National Easement Staging Tool (NEST) or ProTracts.

Note:  This guidance does not change the use of ProTracts or NEST as required for other NRCS easement programs including 2014 Farm Bill RCPP agreements with easement enrollments under the covered programs.

 
Explanation.   States and the Easement Acquisitions Branch (EAB) must follow the guidance provided in this NB to execute RCPP18 Entity-held easement parcel contracts on eligible applications selected for funding and provide to National Headquarters (NHQ) documentation needed to obligate funds using CD and a bulk obligation process.

In addition to the guidance provided in this NB, States and EAB must follow the policy and procedures related to the implementation and administration of entity-held easement activities under a RCPP18 Programmatic Partnership Agreement (PPA) provided in the RCPP regulation and associated policy published through manuals, NBs, national instructions (NI), applicable forms, and other applicable national directives, including:

1.   RCPP regulations at 7 CFR Part 1464;

2.   Title 440, Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Part 531 primarily Subpart K (Eligibility, Application, Selection and Agreements), and Subpart L (Valuation, Deed Review, Title Clearance, Closing and Post Closing Procedures) as well as 440-CPM-527, Subpart H (when available) and applicable provisions of 440-CPM-528.

3.   NI 440-310, “NRCS Program Ranking through Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART);”

4.   NI 300-300, “Instruction and Guidance for State Implementation of Easement Internal Controls Prior to Obligation, Payment, and Closing;”

5.   Form NRCS-CPA-1276-Appendix, “Appendix to the RCPP Parcel Cost-Share Contract;”

6.   NB 300-21-49, NB 300-22-30, and NB 300-22-29;

7.   Project-specific RCPP PPAs; and

8.   Other documents posted on the RCPP SharePoint site or provided by the Easement Programs Division (EPD).

Manual processes outlined in the guidance below may be replaced once the corresponding software functionality is released and as directed by the EPD. Updated Lesson Plans for each software release for the CD workflow can be found on the CD SharePoint site.

RCPP Entity-held easement parcel contracts (RCPP parcel contracts) must be associated with a valid, properly executed RCPP Program Agreement for Entity-held Easements (RCPP Program Agreement). Both the RCPP Program Agreement and the associated RCPP Parcel Contracts are considered Supplemental Type IV Agreements to the RCPP PPA (see 440-CPM-531.100).

State conservationists have the delegated authority to execute RCPP parcel contracts. The State conservationist may delegate, in writing, to the Assistant State Conservationist with responsibility for easement programs the authority to execute the RCPP parcel contract documents as set forth in NB 300-22-30 and NI 300-306. No further delegation of this authority is allowed.

RCPP Entity-Held Easement Parcel Contract development

1.   Complete planning, assessment, ranking, and selection in CD

·     Enter in CD the information from the RCPP Parcel Contract Application (Form NRCS-CPA-1275)

·     Complete the application review and initial onsite inspections as set forth in 440-CPM-531.105, document findings and determinations in CD, as needed.

·     Complete the CART Assessment and Ranking (see NI 440-310).

·     Complete the preliminary RCPP Easement Plan and Map (see 440-CPM-531.115).

·     Obtain easement valuation information (estimated or appraised value and supporting documentation) from the Eligible Entity and enter the cost and contribution information in CART as the estimated cost (see 440-CPM-531.106 and herein).

·     Change the status of the CART Ranking to Submitted.

·     Preapprove eligible applications for selection in the Select Applications Tool (SAT).

·     Complete eligibility determinations as set forth in 440-CPM-531 sections 531.102 through 531.104 and complete all pre-obligation easement valuation, deed review, and due diligence activities as set forth in 440-CPM-531 sections 531.111 through 531.114.

·     Create agreement items in CD for the “Schedule of Acquisition for RCPP Entity-held Easement” (Form NRCS-CPA-1277).

Reminders:  The long-term practice for the easement itself and the associated long-term acquisition-related practices (e.g., technical appraisal review, environmental database search) must be planned in CD and the estimated costs entered based on the easement activity cost lists. 

Only the RCPP FA funds for the easement itself, which is the Federal share provided for payment of easement compensation to the landowner, are obligated through the RCPP parcel contract using the CD and bulk obligation process. The easement acquisition-related items will be contracted outside of CD using other NRCS procurement processes. See NB 300-22-29 LTP – Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Easement Activity Cost List for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 for details. 

Restoration or conservation practices (if applicable) are not part of an RCPP parcel contract. Restoration or conservation practices may be funded on an RCPP entity-held easement through a separate RCPP Land Management (LM) producer contract subject to the provisions of the PPA applicable to LM activities.

 2.  Document Final Eligibility Determinations in CD

·     Verify that all landowner, land, and program eligibility requirements are met as set forth in 440-CPM-531-K and document eligibility determinations in CD.

·     Verify that all eligible entities, co-holders, and landowners meet applicable eligibility and program requirements and document eligibility determinations in CD.

·     Confirm that the proposed easement addresses project-specific requirements in the PPA and in the applicable Notice of Funding Opportunity (NFO).

3.   Create and/or Select a Vendor in CD

·     Vendor records for each eligible entity identified in the RCPP parcel contract application must be available in the Financial Management Modernization Initiative (FMMI) system. States must use SAM/CCR vendor records for the eligible entity. See attachment D “View Vendor Master Data in FMMI” for instructions.

Note:  A vendor record may be required for technical adequacy, reservation, and executing the obligation in CD. However, the SAM/CCR vendor record will not be available to select in CD until after the Ube Release in late June. Prior to that, users may select another type of vendor record for the eligible entity if one is available in CD or create a new vendor record using the “waiver” option if necessary to be able to continue in the workflow. However, the SAM/CCR vendor record information from FMMI must be submitted with the Obligation Package.

4.   Technical Adequacy, Funds Reservation, and Easement Internal Controls Review

·     Once the State level/Easement Acquisitions Branch (EAB) required review has been completed including any necessary corrective actions, mark the application ‘Technically adequate’ in CD then complete the funds reservation in CD.

·     After funds reservation, develop the draft RCPP parcel contract documents (NRCS-CPA-1276, NRCS-CPA-1267-appendix, and NRCS-CPA-1277) using CD and upload to the Document Management System (DMS) then complete all required Easement Internal Controls reviews in accordance with NI-300-300.

Note:  Do not obtain signatures at this time. See attachment C, “DMS Document Types for RCPP Entity-Held Easements” for a list of required RCPP parcel contract documents and filing requirements as part of the internal controls and bulk obligation process.

5.  Funds Reservation and Allocation Monitoring

·     Funds availability for the RCPP FA to be provided as the Federal share for the purchase of the easement itself will be documented by reserving funds in CD. At the time the easement acquisition funds are reserved in CD, States must also verify that sufficient RCPP FA funds are available in FMMI for the two acquisition-related items obtained by NRCS (i.e., the appraisal technical review and environmental record search). RCPP FA for these acquisition-related cost items is obligated separately though the specific procurement of those items.

·     States must monitor fund balances to ensure program funding allocated for a PPA is not exceeded and is managed within PPA eligible activity and contract type parameters, which must also be reflected in CD Funds Manager Spending Plans.

 6.  Parcel Contract Documents and Signature Requirements

·     Use CD to generate the NRCS-CPA-1276, NRCS-CPA-1276-Appendix, and NRCS-CPA-1277, then obtain required signatures from the eligible entity, and as applicable easement co-holders or third-party right holders, as follows: 

o    On the NRCS-CPA-1276: All the eligible entities that will be party to the individual RCPP parcel contract must sign

o    On the NRCS-CPA-1276-appendix: All eligible entities and all co-holders must sign, and all third-party right holders may sign

o    On the NRCS-CPA-1277: The lead eligible entity as designated on the NRCS-CPA-1267 or if none is designated, all eligible entities identified in the NRCS-CPA-1267, must sign

o    The eligible entity, co-holder, and third-party right holder signatures may be affixed electronically through an approved system that verifies identity or may be original ‘wet’ signatures (see NI 440-319 for acceptable signature methods).

·     Manually record the following in the ‘CD Applications and Agreements’ module from hard-copy forms:

o    Dates of eligible entity signatures from the NRCS-CPA-1276, NRCS-CPA-1276 Appendix, and NRCS-CPA-1277 

o    Where more than signature was obtained on different dates, enter the last signature date on the NRCS-CPA-1276, NRCS-CPA-1276 Appendix, or NRCS-CPA-1277.

·     Prior to execution by NRCS, upload the signed versions of each of the RCPP parcel contract documents to DMS in CD.

Note:  Draft documents without signatures may be overwritten or replaced in DMS. Documents with signatures will be uploaded to DMS using the versioning functionality, wherein the only difference in the documents is the signatures. The separately signed versions of the individual document that taken together contain all required signatures will be considered complete. There will not be unified version of an individual document that contains all of the signatures.

·     Complete remaining reviews to ensure the RCPP parcel contract is ready to be executed then mark the application “Ready for Obligation”.

o    After the RCPP parcel contract has been signed by all eligible entities, co-holders, and as applicable, third-party right holders, the State conservationist or designee must execute the parcel contract using CD.

o    NRCS must electronically sign the NRCS-CPA-1267 and the NRCS-CPA-1277.

Note:  Only CD users with appropriate delegations may complete the actions within the system.  Electronic signatures will not be duplicated with pen and ink signatures.

·     The State conservationist or designee must execute the parcel contract using the obligate action in CD.

·     Use CD to produce forms with the State Conservationist signature and upload to DMS with the previously signed copies using versioning.

·     Generate a ‘CD Bulk Obligation Data Report’ for all active RCPP parcel contracts entered as agreements in CD that are ready for recording the obligation of the RCPP FA funds for the easement acquisition in FMMI.

 7.  Recording the Obligation in FMMI

Once an active agreement record for the RCPP parcel contract is created in CD, the following steps will be taken.

·     States/EAB will:

o    Prepare the obligation package using attachment A, “RCPP18 Entity-held easement CD Transactions Obligation Checklist” and “APSB Submission Checklist” located in exhibit 440-CPM-531.203D.

o    Upload the obligation package as a single PDF or portfolio PDF into DMS using the “Other Agreement” Document Type and the naming convention, ”[CDAgreement D]_Obligation Package.” (see attachment B for the DMS upload lesson plan).

o    Submit documentation of the Delegation of Authority for each State to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov prior to or with the first obligation package.  If the State’s delegation of authority lists the positions to which delegations are made, the documentation submitted must include a list of the names of the individuals holding those positions for the purposes of the bulk obligation process.

o    Submit the CD Bulk Obligation Data Report to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov no more than once a day, as applicable, through September 22, 2022, for FY 2022 obligations. Previously submitted obligations will be removed from the report prior to submission.

·     The NHQ bulk obligation team will:

o    Review the obligation packages for completeness and accuracy and populate the bulk obligation spreadsheet.

o    Notify States via email from RCPP18Easements@usda.gov when follow-up is needed with the actions States must take to resolve the findings.

o    Submit the bulk 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.

o    Populate the FMMI obligation number in CD once the FPAC Business Center has recorded the obligation in FMMI.

o    Notify States via email from RCPP18Easements@usda.gov verifying the obligation status as ‘completed’.

8.  Deadlines

·     All FY 2022 obligation packages must be submitted no later than September 22, 2022.

·     To meet the National FY 2022 obligation deadline, States must immediately elevate any issues delaying obligations using the contact information below.

 
Contact.   Direct questions about this bulletin by email to RCPP18Easements@usda.gov.

 
 

 /s/

  CLINT EVANS  
  Acting Deputy Chief for Programs  

 
Attachment A – RCPP18 Entity-Held Parcel Contract CD Transactions Obligation Checklist
Attachment B – Lesson Plan: Upload Bulk Obligation Package to the Conservation Desktop (CD) Document Management (DM) system
Attachment C - DMS Document Types for RCPP Entity-Held Easements
Attachment D - View Vendor Master Data in FMMI 
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