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USDA launches $2.4bn soil and water conservation project

An initiative has been launched by the US government to invest into regional conservation projects alongside private investors.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $1.2 billion into a new conservation programme over the next five years that will include improving soil health and water quality.

Private partners are expected to invest a further $1.2 billion, making some $2.4 billion available for private companies, universities, non-profit organisations and local governments working on regional conservation projects.

The conservation projects will help improve soil health, water quality, water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands, according to a press release.

“This is an entirely new approach to conservation,” said agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “We’re giving private companies, local communities and other non-government partners a way to invest in what are essentially clean water start-up operations. By establishing new public-private partnerships, we can have an impact that’s well beyond what the Federal government could accomplish on its own.”

“These efforts keep our land resilient and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism and outdoor recreation, and other industries,” he added.

USDA will make $400 million in funding available to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in the first year, according to the statement.

The RCPP will have three funding pools. “Critical conservative areas” will receive 35 percent of the funding, while multi-state projects and state-level projects will get 40 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The funds will be awarded in a competitive process. The RCPP is now accepting pre-proposals that are due July 14, and full proposals will be accepted until September 26.