In December, UVLT, along with NH NRCS and four partners, including Vital Communities, Sullivan County Conservation Commission, Grafton Country Conservation Commission and Land For Good, were awarded more than $1M through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) of the USDA. The goal of this RCPP is to stem the conversion and loss of vitally important agricultural and forest land in the Upper Connecticut River watershed of New Hampshire. This partner-driven effort will seek to increase producer (farmer) participation in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) program to permanently conserve viable farmland for protecting water quality and improving soil health. This project will prioritize three areas: farms located near impaired waters, areas where there are low percentages of protected farms, and areas where historically underserved producers lack resources for improvements. The overall goal of this initiative, is to protect 5,000 acres of farm, forest, and upland, in the next five years.
With a new Farm Bill being drafted in Washington, UVLT seized the moment to lock down funding for farmland conservation over a five-year period. This RCPP, which extends to 2023, will provide for some stability in the availability of conservation funding and for some flexibility in utilizing the federal program to protect farmland in the Upper Valley. UVLT will seek adjustment of program terms from NRCS in order to better align the ACEP-ALE program with the types of farms that contribute to the overall rural and cultural landscape that make the Upper Valley such a special place to live.