Montana NRCS is currently reviewing Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposals that have been submitted for funding consideration. Find information about the review and selection process that is being used below. If you have any questions, please contact Kelley Barkell at Kelley.Barkell@usda.gov.
Photo courtesy of Vilicus Farms
RCPP Proposal Evaluation Process
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill as a competitive program to which partners could apply to one of three funding pools. Each year, a national review team was convened to evaluate submitted proposals, and States also provided evaluations of relevant proposals.
RCPP was re-authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill with significant changes. Based on these changes, there are now three program components:
- RCPP Classic
- RCPP Renewals
- RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA)
RCPP Renewals are noncompetitive and are administered through a partner self-assessment process. RCPP Classic and AFAs rely on a peer review process to evaluate the merits of partner applications. For RCPP Classic, elimination of the National funding pool led to the decision to eliminate the national review team. RCPP Classic proposals will undergo a technical review at the State level only, with final award decisions made by the NRCS Chief.
For the forthcoming AFA provision, to be administered through a separate competition in 2020, a national review team will be convened. States will also be asked to review relevant AFA proposals.
RCPP proposals are scored and ranked based on the evaluation criteria included in the funding announcement. The four criteria are based on the RCPP principles:
- Impact: RCPP proposals must propose effective solutions that address one or more natural resource priorities to help solve natural resource challenges that are limited in geographic scope. Partners are responsible for evaluating a project’s impact and results.
- Partner Contributions: Partners are responsible for identifying any combination of direct and in-kind value-added contributions to leverage NRCS’s RCPP investments. Partners must provide substantial contributions and the magnitude of contributions is considered in the RCPP application evaluation criteria.
- Innovation: NRCS seeks projects that integrate multiple conservation approaches, implement innovative conservation approaches or technologies, build new partnerships, or effectively take advantage of program flexibilities to deliver conservation solutions.
- Partnerships and Management: Partners must have experience, expertise, and capacity to manage the partnership and project, provide outreach and technical assistance to producers, and quantify the environmental (and when possible, economic and social) outcomes of an RCPP AFA project. NRCS gives preference to partnerships that engage Historically Underserved farmers and ranchers.
The credibility and success of RCPP relies on our collective ability to evaluate proposals and select those that best embody these four principles.
All RCPP proposals that enter the technical peer review process have already been screened for completeness and basic compliance with the provisions of this notice. If for any reason you believe a proposal you are reviewing is incomplete or does not meet the basic requirements of the RCPP program, please let National RCPP program staff know immediately.
The following is the workflow of the Review and Selection Process:
- Initial Proposal Vetting – RCPP Coordinators must review each proposal for three eligibility items (lead partner eligibility, land eligibility and ensuring that each CCA proposal addresses one of the identified priority resource concerns) prior to initiation of technical reviews.
- State Technical Reviews - The State technical review will need to consist of NRCS Staff with programmatic and technical expertise. The composition of a State’s review team should include a variety of technical disciplines that are applicable to the State/Region and the projects that are being reviewed. The team should be lead by the State Conservationist or designee and should have an odd number of members, with a minumum of 3 members.
It is the State review team’s responsibility to provide a ranked list of projects to the NHQ Projects Branch, using the RCPP SharePoint site.
- Leadership Review - The RCPP leadership review team consists of members of NRCS senior leadership, specifically the Associate Chief for Conservation, Deputy Chief for Programs (Chair), the Deputy Chief for Soil Science and Resource Assessment, the Deputy Chief for Science & Technology, the Deputy Chief for Management and Strategy, and the Regional Conservationists. The leadership review evaluates the state technical review recommendations and ensures that the evaluations are consistent with program objectives. In addition to the technical review rankings, the leadership review team may consider available funding, funding pools, geographic diversity, applicant diversity, and other factors. The leadership review team then makes recommendations for funding to the NRCS Chief.
- Final Decision – The NRCS Chief makes the final RCPP award decision.