NB_440_23_04 - NB 440-23-04 PGM – Fiscal Year 2023 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program Project Evaluation Guidance
NB 440-23-04 PGM – Fiscal Year 2023 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program Project Evaluation Guidance
National Bulletin: 440-23-04 Date: November 2, 2022
Subject: PGM – Fiscal Year 2023 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program Project Evaluation Guidance



 
Purpose.  This national bulletin provides fiscal year (FY) 2023 guidance for the 2018 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) national project evaluation.
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2023
 
Background.  RCPP Manual Title 440, Part 531, Section 531.4B(6)(ix), requires program evaluation to ensure accurate application of RCPP guidance policies and procedures by state office personnel managing 2018 Farm Bill RCPP projects.
 
Explanation.  This guidance establishes a formal National FY 2023 project evaluation process for RCPP. The FY 23 process will sample active Farm Bill 2018 projects (i.e., projects awarded in FY 2019-2021). A small number of active projects will be evaluated to identify opportunities for improving management of Programmatic Partnership Agreements (PPA) and Supplemental Agreements (SA), producer applications, and obligated contracts. This evaluation process will include review of SA payments associated with selected projects. Additional payment reviews may be carried out under the guidance provided by NB 300-22-46. Projects reviewed under this process are not exempt from further payment reviews.

The intent of this evaluation effort is to improve state adherence to program policy and guidance and to identify training opportunities to help states with project management and administration. The Financial Assistance Programs Division (FAPD) Projects Branch will work alongside state RCPP coordinators to conduct the project evaluations.

FAPD Projects Branch will select eight states (two per NRCS region) to participate in the FY 2023 project evaluations and select a single project in each state to evaluate. FAPD will notify the eight selected states of their participation and of the selected project by November 18, 2022.

For selected projects, FAPD Projects Branch reviewers will have access to most of the necessary documentation through the Programs Portal and Conservation Desktop. If additional documentation is needed, FAPD staff will contact the relevant state RCPP coordinator.

The evaluation will review the following documents (if relevant):

  • Current PPA and all SA executed under the PPA, including valuation methods and other attachments.
  • Conservation Desktop (CD)-based program contracts (e.g., LMR producer contracts or parcel contracts).
  • NRCS 3rd party contracts (IAS, ezFG, etc.).
  • AGI applicability waivers.
  • Approved waiver requests.
  • Partner-provided reports.
  • A state-prepared summary of delivered contributions (may be requested).
  • Brief description of how state tracks NRCS Technical Assistance (TA) expenditures and any specific controls enacted to ensure that NRCS-use TA is only charged for project activities (may be requested).
  • SA payment packages.

FAPD Projects Branch staff will use the FY23 RCPP National Project Evaluation Worksheet (attachment A) to document project evaluations. States may review attachment A to familiarize themselves with the goals and objectives of the evaluation process.

The FY23 RCPP Quality Assurance SA Payment Review Factors (attachment B) provides an overview of what will be evaluated within SA payment review component.

FAPD Projects Branch staff will prepare a summary report for each state that identifies opportunities for improved program management and administration, if any are found during the evaluation process. States may request a closeout meeting between FAPD staff and state staff.

This national project evaluation process is not a compliance audit like those carried out by FPAC Business Center, Performance, Accountability, and Risk Division. National project evaluations related to RCPP projects or partners do not result in punitive or corrective actions unless the evaluation reveals an improper payment.
 
Contact.  Please direct questions on this bulletin to RCPP@usda.gov.
 
 

 /s/

KAREN A. WOODRICH
Acting Deputy Chief for Programs

 
 
Attachment A - FY22 RCPP National Project Evaluation Worksheet
Attachment B - FY23 RCPP Quality Assurance SA Payment Review Factors
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