Spotted knapweed. Photo by Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County OSU Extension

Targeted conservation programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a national investment of $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability, including three projects in Ohio: The Rocky Fork Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the H2Ohio Expansion RCPP, and the Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Collaboration RCPP.

Producers are encouraged to apply for RCPP project funding at their local NRCS office. Applications are taken on a continuous basis, however, interested parties are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center prior to the January 14, 2022 signup deadline for fiscal year 2022 funding.

RCPP is a voluntary conservation program which helps producers make conservation work for them. NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices.

Producers must meet project eligibility requirements, including location:

Rocky Fork RCPP: Highland Soil and Water Conservation District and five local state and federal partners are working with producers and landowners to protect water quality, reduce soil erosion, and provide habitat for at-risk species in the Rocky Fork Watershed. The partnership will help producers implement cover crops, field borders, and filter strips to reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff, helping alleviate algal blooms in Rocky Fork Lake.

H2Ohio Expansion RCPP: The Ohio Department of Agriculture is using RCPP funding to complement its H2Ohio initiative, launched in 2019. The initiative focuses land management practice and system implementation to reduce Lake Erie nutrient enrichment. A diverse group of 20 partners intend to focus this project on farms and farmers in a recently announced 10-county portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) that had not been included in the first H2Ohio program, thereby accelerating progress toward achieving Ohio’s commitment to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. 

Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Collaboration: Indiana, Michigan and Ohio have joined forces with over 30 partners, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Ohio State University to help participating farmers improve soil health and reduce nutrient loading impacts in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The partnership will use sophisticated targeting tools to work with producers and landowners operating near the Maumee headwaters, an area identified as a source of high levels of excess phosphorus, with technical and financial assistance opportunities.

Additional RCPP projects include:

Jacoby Creek Partnership lead by Tecumseh Land Trust: The goal if the Jacoby Creek Partnership is to improve landowner engagement and to elevate the level of conservation of farmland in the Jacoby Creek Watershed (west of Yellow Springs OH) for easement protected land and those not yet protected.  The project uses both ACEP-ALE and EQIP sponsor programs to engage producers.  The project also includes student monitoring for water quality, soils sampling, and local municipality planning. 

Spotted Knapweed for Ohio Producers lead by Morgan Soil and Water Conservation District: The goal of the Spotted Knapweed for Ohio Producers is to build on a larger effort to address spotted knapweed in the Morgan, Muskingum, Nobel and Guernsey Counties.  The partnership continues to pursue a strong effort to address the persistent weed that affects livestock in the area.  This RCPP project includes an expansion of their partnership efforts and has broadened applying treatment to road ROW and municipal held property.

Through conservation practices and partnerships, including those through RCPP, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, producers and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local and Tribal governments.

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