Like the Technical Assistance (TA) Grants from round one in 2018, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has entered into an agreement with NACD to provide funding to further enhance conservation district technical assistance across the nation. A significant portion of the granted funds will be awarded directly to conservation districts to hire staff where additional capacity is needed to improve customer service and reduce workload pressure.
This agreement includes:
- $9 million for conservation planning and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) implementation assistance
- $2,700,000 will be allocated to hire district employees who will assist landowners in implementing EQIP contracts
- $3,150,000 is available for conservation districts requiring greater capacity to provide conservation operations planning assistance (COTA)
- $3,150,000 is available for conservation districts requiring greater access to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- $1 million for NACD to manage the project
- A 25 percent match is required for each agreement. Match is preferably cash, but in-kind will be considered. NACD is required overall to have a 25 percent match for each agreement it makes with a district; however, NACD will be providing the first 5 percent. Conservation districts will need to supply the remaining 20 percent. Most contracts will cover funding for a one-year period.
NACD will ask state/territory conservation partnerships to identify high-priority locations for the use of these funds. Funding will be awarded in batches on an ongoing basis as proposals are received with attention to parity across the country.
NACD’s priority is to get the $9 million in the hands of conservation districts so they can hire employees to help carry out the objectives of this agreement. Funding assumptions are that this $9 million would hire about 180 full-time equivalents (FTEs). Some will likely be part-time, contractual and/or serve multiple districts. Some multi-year agreements of two or three years may be approved and districts will have additional time for use of the funds.
How much funding is available?
$9 million – 30 percent to support EQIP implementation, 35 percent for conservation planning and 35 percent for CSP implementation.
How long is this funding available?
One to three-year periods will be considered. There could be a need for an extension in a few cases, and NACD will plan to consider these requests as they arise.
What is the requirement for matching funds?
Districts are required to contribute 20 percent of the total proposal costs. For example, for every dollar of the agreement, $0.80 is granted and a $0.20 match is required of the district. The match should come from non-federal sources and should preferably be cash, but in-kind contributions or a combination of both will be considered. Suggestions for match include funding from county and state governments or existing employees spending time on this project, such as overseeing a new hire.
Who is eligible to receive grant funds?
Conservation districts are intended to be the primary recipients of funds. In instances where conservation districts are unable to participate, state associations of conservation districts, state conservation agencies and/or RC&D Councils are eligible. NACD will also consider joint agreements such as between two districts or a district and an association or state agency.
What program TA services are needed?
EQIP and CSP implementation and conservation planning.
What is the process to identify needed TA services?
Each state conservation partnership will pick their highest-priority locations and staffing needs.
When must grant TA services be completed?
The goal is to provide at least one year of technical assistance services from the time a conservation district signs their agreement in addition to allowing some time for the hiring process. For all agreements, the completion date will be included in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by the district/grantee.
What CSP workload should we propose addressing with our request?
Each state partnership leaders’ team will need to assess their respective CSP situation. Some states will need to do outreach to help the program get started; some states already have a robust response to the program and may need to do specific technical assistance tasks with the producers who want to use the program.
Where do we get the detailed information for the planned accomplishments part of the application?
In most cases, the local NRCS designated conservationist or district conservationist will be the best source of accomplishment information. State conservationists have been notified of this announcement. At your state partnership deliberations for assembling a request, please request that the state conservationist or representative communicate with the respective district conservationist in the locations the partnership selects for inclusion in their request.
What kinds of conservation planning might be included in requests for Conservation Operations Technical Assistance (COTA) planning funds?
Most of the planning needed will likely be assistance to individuals wanting to plan and apply conservation systems and practices. There may be other planning needs of high priority to include landscape scale planning, or longer-range planning for a district including tribal conservation districts or for other longer-term resource concerns in a given state/territory/reservation. The narrative statement required for COTA fund requests is the place where a state partnership or a Tribal applicant can include the need or justification for the planning.
Can 2018 Technical Assistance grantees reapply?
Can state/territory and tribal conservation partnership leaders submit multiyear requests?
If we need to get information from a local district to include in our application, is there an easy way to obtain that without having to reenter all of the information?
Form data can be filled in locally if needed, then printed, scanned and sent to a state leader for inclusion in the state package. Most of the form data is relatively easy to input. The narrative information required for the COTA conservation planning requests could more easily be handled by providing it in a word document to the state leader who would be able to copy and paste it in rather than re-enter the narrative.