Applications for funding to improve natural resources close in November

CLARKSVILLE, TN – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering funding for innovative partner-led projects to improve water quality, wildlife habitat and soil health in three Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) areas in Tennessee. To be eligible for program funding, applicants must cultivate land within the focus area of ​​the relevant RCPP project. Applications for funding for fiscal year 2023 must be received by November 18.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program draws on local knowledge and networks to advance conservation projects and brings together a variety of new partners including corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations and local governments,” said Sheldon Hightower, Tennessee NRCS State Conservationist. Currently, NRCS staff are working with clients via phone, mail and online communications, and fieldwork continues with appropriate social distancing to assist producers with conservation planning and financial support through Farm Bill programs.

“While we take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we will continue to provide growers with a personalized, customized service to help them meet their conservation and business goals,” Hightower said. Funding is provided through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easement under the RCPP Farm Bill program.

Funded RCPP projects in FY2023 include:

Advanced Precision Farming for Sustainable Conservation: An RCPP project that encompasses the Cumberland River Basin in Tennessee and Kentucky, covering nearly 18,000 square miles and home to nearly 2.5 million people. This project will take place in the Red River and Lower Cumberland watersheds, two of the 14 watersheds that make up the Cumberland River Basin. NRCS, in partnership with Nutria, will work with producers to improve water quality by maximizing fertilizer uptake, preventing sediment and nutrient losses, employing science-based precision farming practices, and implementing high nutrient reduction structural practices. The goal is to advance the implementation of precision farming farming practices to ensure the sustainability, resilience and continued productivity of the region’s workspaces, while improving the grower’s bottom line.

Reversing grassland biodiversity decline: The Tennessee NRCS is working to support the American Bird Conservancy and its partners with a multifaceted conservation program that will complement existing efforts to reverse grassland habitat decline in the southeastern United States, particularly near protected landscapes.The project aims to restore populations of grassland bird species considered by Partners in Flight to be in need of protection, as well as the native biodiversity associated with the historic grassland landscapes of Tennessee and Kentucky’s Interior Low Plateaus ecoregion. Conservation efforts include removing woody plants and mandated fires, converting arable land or fescue pastures to native grasses, increasing perennial-to-grass ratios, changing grazing intensity, and changing hay regimes.

Upper Clinch-Powell Watershed Partnership: Tennessee NRCS is working to support The Nature Conservancy in a bi-state partnership to improve water quality and aquatic habitat in Virginia and Tennessee. The partnership will work to implement best management practices in targeted watersheds from Clinch-Powell in Lee, Russell and Scott counties in Virginia and in Claiborne and Hancock counties in Tennessee. The high concentration of rare aquatic biodiversity in the Clinch-Powell River system makes it a national treasure. Agriculture is the dominant land use in the Clinch-Powell watershed and as such, addressing the impact of agriculture on water quality is one of the key conservation needs in the region. Best management practices include river restoration, alternative irrigation systems, livestock exclusion, treatment of heavy use areas, treatment of critical areas, wetland restoration and enhancement, and other conservation practices.

Online Services are available to customers with an eAuth account that provides access to the Farmers.gov portal where growers can view USDA farm credit information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can sign up at farmers.gov/sign-in. Producers with questions regarding NRCS programs should contact their local USDA service center.

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