The Ottawa Conservation District (OCD) is offering financial assistance to farmers through its Farmland & Water Quality Conservation Initiative. This program is funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and will leverage nearly 7 million federal, state, and local dollars through 2026 within Ottawa County and its neighboring watersheds. The goals of this initiative include: 1) protecting surface and groundwater quality; 2) improving habitat for fish and wildlife; and 3) preserving manageable farmlands that can help conserve groundwater resources. To achieve lasting results, OCD will work with the NRCS and local partners to enroll up to 11,970 acres in conservation practices, and 125 acres in farmland preservation. This will lead to an estimated annual reduction of 600 tons of sediment, and 24,000 lbs of nutrients in the project area.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) supports working lands conservation by providing localized funding for cost-share payments and free technical assistance to agriculture producers. In doing so, the program addresses natural resource concerns and delivers environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility.
This map depicts the entire project area. If you are a producer outside of Ottawa County, but within the project area, you may still qualify!
Pictured: A grassed waterway, one of the potential practices funded.
Watch the Rollout Meeting Recording!
On March 23rd, 2022, OCD held the Initial Rollout Meeting for the Farmland & Water Quality Initiative. This meeting was recorded and is available for viewing at any time. This meeting provided an overview of the project, details on eligible conservation practices, discussed the application process, and presented project timelines.
What does this project mean for West Michigan?
This project aims to improve the long-term economic, social, and environmental health of Ottawa County and the surrounding area by protecting surface and
groundwater quality, improving aquatic and wildlife habitat, and preserving manageable farmland in the Macatawa, Lower Grand, and Pigeon River watersheds. Along with NRCS, OCD will be partnering with Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program, Ottawa County Groundwater Sustainability Initiative, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, Ottawa County Farm Bureau, neighboring conservation districts, and local townships.
- How do I apply?
- Producers interested in applying for RCPP funding can apply directly with the Ottawa Conservation District. Please find our staff’s contact information below.
- Who is eligible?
- Producers that fall within the geographic project area are eligible to apply for funding through the Farmland and Water Quality Conservation Initiative. The geographic area encompasses the entirety of Ottawa County and portions of Muskegon, Newaygo, Kent, and Allegan Counties and follows the boundaries of the Macatawa, Pigeon, and Lower Grand River Watersheds.
- When can I sign-up?
- Applications are accepted year-round. Funding will be awarded on an annual basis. Contact the Ottawa Conservation District for more information on award dates.
- How long does the process take?
- Timelines vary by project. The planning process can take several months to complete. This time is necessary to ensure that local environmental concerns are addressed.
- Is this free?
- Yes! All technical assistance provided by the Ottawa Conservation District and NRCS is completely free. Planned conservation activities are cost-shared.
Steps for Interested Producers
- Speak with one of our conservation planning experts.
- Schedule a site-visit to evaluate your conservation needs, goals, and objectives.
- Work with our staff to develop a personalized plan for your property and resources.
- Once satisfied with your plan, submit your request for funding to the NRCS.
- Work with OCD and NRCS to implement your personalized conservation plan.
- Who helps make sure I implement conservation practices correctly?
- OCD and NRCS staff will assist you every step of the way.
- What practices can I get funded?
- Eligible practices are designed to protect water resources. Some of these include: cover crops, grassed waterways, irrigation improvements, drainage management and many more. Contact our office for a full list of eligible practices.
- Is this confidential?
- Yes. All producer information remains confidential as required by law.
- Will I lose decision-making power on my land?
- No. Landowners make all conservation planning and implementation decisions.
- I’m not interested in getting funded but I would still like help to improve my land.
- We can help. Our staff are dedicated to assisting landowners with all their conservation needs.
- How does RCPP differ from other NRCS programs?
- Unlike other NRCS programs, RCPP is designed to provide funding for a specific region of the state. This improves our ability to serve producers in that area and creates less competition for funding.