Over $114,364 is still available to agricultural irrigators to purchase conservation equipment such as flow meters, soil moisture monitoring equipment and chemigation check valves. The money is available as part of a cooperative effort between the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS),
North Plains Groundwater Conservation District (NPGCD) and several other groundwater conservation districts in the Panhandle-High Plains.
A total of $185,636 worth of projects had been selected for funding at the time of this writing, including $103,652 worth of NPGCD projects. Projects within the NPGCD amount to more than 55-percent of the total, so far.
The support is part of the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The RCPP provided $300,000 to those within the districts to enhance water conservation practices. While much of the available funding has been obligated, the NRCS will continue to fund requests until the money is all distributed.
The RCPP encourages agricultural water-users to use less water from the Ogallala aquifer by addressing irrigation efficiency and moisture management concerns through adoption of on-farm water conservation strategies or improved irrigation efficiency.
The RCPP priority areas and partners include High Plains UWCD, Hemphill County UWCD, Llano Estacado UWCD, Mesa UWCD, NPGCD, Sandy Land UWCD, and South Plains UWCD. High Plains UWCD in Lubbock will serve as the lead partner for the five-year program (2016-2020). Participating groundwater conservation districts do not receive any funding for the program, but will be providing in-kind services to assist with water conservation efforts.
RCPP builds upon existing USDA-NRCS programs to address water conservation needs. These include the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). While
RCPP funding counts toward the EQIP limit, it does not require NRCS to prioritize applicants; therefore, RCPP funding can be approved faster than regular EQIP.
According to the USDA-NRCS, the conservation program encourages partners to join efforts with producers to increase the restoration/sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife, and other related natural resources on a regional or watershed basis. The NRCS and its partners will help producers install and maintain conservation practices in selected project areas. Partners leverage RCPP funding and report on benefits achieved. RCPP will address irrigation water management and soil moisture management in the Panhandle-South Plains region.
USDA-NRCS allocated approximately $300,000 per year for those within the seven participating groundwater conservation districts. The funding is on a first-come, first-serve basis while allocations last. The RCPP is available for five years, but it is only guaranteed for three years, when a new farm bill will go into effect. By leveraging state and local cost-share for the purchase of equipment, this project will result in enhanced adoption of conservation practices.
Participation in RCPP is entirely voluntary. Interested producers can sign up now for the program at their local USDA-NRCS service center.
Additional information about RCPP is available at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
For more information on the RCPP, contact any of the following, Carmon McCain, Information/Education Group Supervisor, 806-762-0181, firstname.lastname@example.org; Jason Coleman, HPWD General Manager, (806) 762-0181, email@example.com; Darren Richardson, Asst. State Conservationist, USDA-NRCS, Lubbock, (806) 283-9924, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Quenna Terry, USDA-NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, (806) 283-9935 email@example.com.