ALT Receives USDA Funding

Athens Land Trust Awarded Funding Through New USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced that the Athens Land Trust (ALT) will receive $840,000 for conservation partnerships as part of the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This Farm Bill initiative marks a new era for conservation efforts nationwide. ALT’s funding will go toward protection of soil and water quality in the Savannah, Oconee, Ogeechee, Ocmulgee, Satilla and Altamaha watersheds.

Heather Benham, executive director for ALT says, “We’ve seen that Georgia is behind the rest of the nation in farmland protection and we know that in part it is because we lack a dedicated funding source to act as match for the federal dollars. We believe that we can help find creative ways for local communities that value farming to create their own program that can result in more protected farms in Georgia.”

Athens Land Trust’s project will address the natural resource concerns of water quantity and quality, livestock production limitation, diminishing wildlife habitat, conserving land and water, preserving farmland, improving soil health, and supporting the viability of farming. The work will be completed by providing technical assistance to farmers and landowners regarding sustainable livestock production, conservation practices, and USDA programs and resources. ALT will also work toward permanent conservation easements on farmland and financial assistance for farmers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. Of those, more than 200 were invited to submit full proposals. A total of 115 projects across all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will receive more than $370 million in federal funding — and an estimated $400 million more in partner contributions — to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment. RCPP is a 5-year grant.

“With so many strong project proposals, the selection process was extremely competitive,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.