USDA Selects Two Water Quality Focused Projects for New, Innovative Conservation Program

DES MOINES -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that more than 100 high-impact projects across all 50 states, including Iowa, will receive more than $370 million as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). 

RCPP’s historic focus on public-private partnership enables private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in efforts to keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries.  

The Iowa Targeted Demonstration Watersheds Partnership Project will receive $3.5 million through RCPP. With the funding, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and its 20 project partners, will be able to increase available resources through existing demonstration projects in key watersheds, conduct farmer-to-farmer outreach and assist farmers in implementing conservation practices. 

“The projects will focus on the adoption of conservation practices that are most beneficial to reducing nutrient loading in up to nine watersheds,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey. “This effort is tied directly to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and will serve as models for future work and focus on farmer-to-farmer outreach and education.” 

This year’s RCPP projects will engage hundreds of partners with wide-ranging interests, including communities, conservation districts, agribusiness, non-government organizations, for- and non-profit organizations, state and federal agencies and Tribal governments. In addition to USDA funds, partners will contribute an estimated $400 million, more than doubling USDA’s investment. 

“RCPP puts our partners in the driver’s seat,” said Jay Mar, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines. “Projects are led locally, and demonstrate the value of strong public-private partnerships that deliver solutions to tough natural resource challenges.” 

USDA will also provide $2 million to Cedar Rapids for an RCPP project. The Middle Cedar Partnership Project will focus on working with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to install best management practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands and saturated buffers to help improve water quality, water quantity and soil health in the Cedar River Watershed. 

“There is an urgent need to address nitrates concentrations and extreme flood events in the Cedar River,” said Mar. “This project will lay the foundation for needed improvements, and bring together a diverse group of conservation partners.” 

Nationally, more than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals. “With so many strong project proposals, the project selection process was extremely competitive,” said Mar. “RCPP is a 5-year $1.2 billion USDA commitment; projects not selected in this first year may be eligible in subsequent years.” 

For more information on Iowa’s RCPP projects, visit NRCS Iowa’s webpage at To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit or your local USDA service center.