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From Funding to Action: Empowering Farmers Through RCPP

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Dan Ryan

The USDA’s $1.5B investment in the RCPP will advance climate-smart agriculture in the US while expanding the number, reach and variety of conservation programs. Realizing the full potential of this funding requires intentional action and collaboration across the agricultural ecosystem.

In a groundbreaking move, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently allocated $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2024 to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) — a threefold increase over its 2023 allocation.

This funding empowers private-sector entities to design custom projects tailored to the producers they serve and financially incentivize conservation practices that are best suited for their geography — promising economic benefits for agricultural stakeholders including farmers, ranchers and forest landowners while addressing pressing environmental concerns. This year’s exponential increase allows more organizations to take advantage of RCPP opportunities than ever before — boosting the number of those promoting and incentivizing climate-smart and regenerative-agricultural practices with government funding.

New opportunities for RCPP applicants

This year’s increased funding offers new opportunities to grant applicants. One is that they can offer farmers some of the highest payments currently available for needed practice changes. Second, additional Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding will help promote further measurement and reporting of the practice-adoption impacts for some programs. Finally, companies that can help farmers stack these publicly funded payments with private-sector opportunities will have the added benefit of reducing their own Scope 3 emissions.

1. High incentive payments for practice conversion and technical support

RCPP partners will be able to offer higher payments to farmers than most private-sector programs can provide. The high payment would help to drive farmer participation, as the early-year costs and potential yield impacts of transitioning to new practices are prohibitive to many farmers already dealing with thin margins and fluctuating commodity prices.

In addition to direct farmer payments, RCPP provides funding to invest in technical guidance — providing a crucial resource for farmers to make the best agronomic decisions and reduce the risks associated with change. The USDA is providing flexibility and support for innovative conservation approaches tailored to the unique needs of different regions and communities.

2. Increased funding for measuring outcomes

The IRA promotes measurement and monitoring of program outcomes. Grant recipients can tap into new funding pools by including and focusing on measuring outcomes as part of their program.

Using technology, organizations can track and report on farmer engagement, enrollment and practice adoption. Leveraging scaled modeling capabilities will enable partners to easily monitor emission-reduction outcomes by area, practice, resource concern and grower demographic. The RCPP program promotes technology partnerships to support a data-driven approach — ensuring that funding is deployed effectively and addresses the most critical conservation challenges within agricultural supply chains.

3. Combining public and private financing to promote more change

Private companies with Scope 3 emissions-reduction targets are investing in incentive programs that pay farmers to adopt new practices and reduce their on-farm emissions. Stacking together public and private incentives can increase farm profitability and drive further adoption.

Intentional action across the agricultural ecosystem

The unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in the RCPP represents a historic opportunity to advance conservation and climate-smart agriculture in the United States while expanding the number, reach and variety of conservation programs. Realizing the full potential of this funding requires intentional action and collaboration across the agricultural ecosystem.

By helping farmers maximize their incentives, focusing on the impact and outcomes of funding and utilizing technology for scale and tracking, companies can play a crucial role in maximizing the impact of government funding. Together, we can build a more sustainable and resilient future for agriculture and the planet.

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