U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations most recently checked for updates: Nov 30, 2022
(a) Evaluation guidelines. In evaluating program contract applications, NRCS may take into consideration the following guidelines:
(1) Any producer who has eligible land in a project area encompassed by a partnership agreement may submit an application for participation in RCPP.
(2) To the greatest extent practicable, applications for similar eligible activities may be grouped together in ranking pools for evaluation and ranking purposes.
(3) Upon execution of a partnership agreement, NRCS will accept producer applications for funding under such agreement throughout the fiscal year and may be evaluated and ranked on a continuous or ranking-period basis.
(4) NRCS may give priority to applications that are submitted as part of a bundle submitted by a lead partner.
(5) In selecting RCPP applications, NRCS will develop an evaluation and ranking process to prioritize eligible applications for funding that address the purposes of the project or CCA, including treating the identified project or priority resource concerns, as applicable.
(b) Selection order. (1) NRCS will select eligible applications for funding in order of ranking priority taking into account identified evaluation periods and ranking pools.
(2) NRCS may decline to select an eligible application if the remaining funding is insufficient to fund that application and NRCS may proceed to the next application in ranked order that can be funded with available funding.
(3) NRCS, in consultation with the lead partner, may identify and establish in the partnership agreement other limited circumstances that may warrant selection of eligible applications outside of a strictly applied rank order because such application is critical to the success of a project that provides conservation benefits to multiple producers or landowners in a community, watershed, or other geographic area.
(c) Public information. Pursuant to the terms of the partnership agreement, NRCS or the lead partner will make available to the public sign-up information, including the identification of program and priority resource concerns, a listing of eligible activities, payment rates for certain eligible activities, State supplemental guidance, and contact information for the RCPP State coordinators available to assist partners and applicants with the program.
(d) Applications in CCAs. (1) NRCS will identify the designated CCAs and publish priority resource concerns for a CCA project.
(2) NRCS will select eligible applications for program contracts within CCAs that address one or more priority resource concerns for which the CCA is designated.
(3) NRCS will identify the priority resource concerns and associated ranking criteria in any announcement under § 1464.20.
(4) Lands outside of a CCA are not eligible for applications in the CCA, even where conservation efforts on such land may influence resource concerns within the CCA.
(a) Requirement of a program contract. For a producer to receive payments, the producer must enter into a program contract and agree to the terms and conditions associated with the type of eligible activity to be implemented.
(b) Program contract contents. A program contract will:
(1) Identify the requirements for participation under RCPP, including:
(i) Contract duration;
(ii) Maximum Federal payment amounts or rates; and
(iii) Any other necessary requirements, as determined by NRCS;
(i) The eligible activities that the participant agrees to implement; and
(ii) The requirements to demonstrate successful implementation of the eligible activities;
(3) Incorporate the RCPP plan of operations, as applicable, which includes -
(i) Identification of eligible activities contained in the program contract, including which resource concerns each eligible activity addresses;
(ii) A schedule or timeline for implementation of selected eligible activities, as applicable; and
(iii) Other criteria as determined necessary by NRCS;
(4) Incorporate provisions to further the purposes of the partnership agreement;
(5) Incorporate all provisions as required by statute or regulation, including requirements that the participant will:
(i) Not conduct any action that would defeat the program's purposes;
(ii) Refund any program payments received with interest, and forfeit any future payments under the program, on the violation of a term or condition of the program contract, consistent with the provisions of § 1464.36; and
(iii) Supply information if required by NRCS to determine compliance with program requirements; and
(6) Specify any other provision determined necessary or appropriate by NRCS to ensure the program purpose is met.
(c) Payment eligibility. To be eligible to enter into a program contract or receive a payment, an applicant or participant must -
(1) Provide a tax identification number; however, where applicable, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders may use another unique identification number for each individual eligible for payment;
(2) Indicate, where applicable, the percent interest share in a payment that is consistent with operation or ownership shares;
(3) Comply with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions found at part 12 of this title at the time of application and throughout the contract term; and
(4) Be eligible for payments in accordance with part 1400 of this chapter, average adjusted gross income limitation, including any waiver of these requirements, prior to program contract approval.
(d) Duplication of payment. (1) Except as otherwise indicated in this paragraph, any payments received by a participant from a State, private entity, or person for the implementation of one or more eligible activities on eligible land will be in addition to the payments provided to the participant under this part.
(2) NRCS will not issue financial assistance to a participant through a program contract for eligible activities on eligible land if the participant receives payments or other benefits for the same or similar eligible activity on the same land under any other conservation program administered by USDA.
(3) NRCS will not provide technical or financial assistance to a participant for more than one eligible activity to achieve the same resource benefit on the same land during the same time period.
(a) Modifications. NRCS may modify a program contract, if:
(1) The parties agree to the modification, and
(2) NRCS determines the modified program contract continues to meet the purposes of the program.
(b) Notice of loss of effective control. NRCS may terminate an entire program contract if, within the time specified in the program contract, the participant does not provide NRCS with written notice regarding any voluntary or involuntary loss of effective control of any acreage under the program contract, which includes changes in the participant's ownership structure or corporate form.
(c) Approval of transfer. NRCS may approve a transfer of a program contract if:
(1) NRCS has documented notice from the current participant that identifies the new producer who will take control of the acreage, as required in paragraph (e) of this section;
(2) The current participant transfers rights and responsibilities to the new producer;
(3) The new producer meets program eligibility requirements within a reasonable time frame, as determined by NRCS, and agrees to assume the rights and responsibilities from the current participant for the acreage under the program contract; and
(4) NRCS determines that the purposes of the program will continue to be met despite the current participant's losing effective control of all or a portion of the land under contract.
(d) Payment status. (1) Until NRCS approves the transfer of program contract rights, the transferee is not a participant in the program and may not receive payment for eligible activities implemented prior to NRCS approval of the program contract transfer.
(2) For program contract payment purposes, NRCS will consider the transferor to be the participant to whom payments may be made for eligible activities implemented when NRCS approval of the program contract transfer is pending.
(e) Right to terminate. NRCS may not approve a program contract transfer and may terminate the program contract in its entirety if NRCS determines that the loss of effective control of the land was voluntary, the participant's written notification of loss of effective control was not provided to NRCS within the specified timeframe, the new producer is not eligible or willing to assume responsibilities under the contract, or the purposes of the program cannot be met.
(f) Run with the land. Once an easement deed has been acquired, an easement will run with the land and bind all successors and assigns. Subordination, modification, exchange, or termination of an easement acquired under this part will be consistent with the policies and procedures under 7 CFR part 1468.
(g) Reestablishment. In the event an eligible activity fails through no fault of the participant, NRCS may issue payments to reestablish the eligible activity, subject to such limitations that NRCS may establish.
(a) Reasonable notice. In the event of a violation of the program contract terms, NRCS will provide the participant written notice as specified in the program contract, and, where appropriate, a reasonable opportunity to voluntarily correct the violation in accordance with the terms of the program contract.
(b) Voluntary correction. If the participant fails to correct the violation of a term of the program contract in the timeframe specified by NRCS, NRCS may terminate the program contract or require modification as a condition to keep the program contract in effect.
(c) Refund and right to future assistance. If NRCS terminates a program contract due to a violation of its terms or conditions, the participant will forfeit any right to future assistance under the program contract and will refund all or part of any payments received by the participant, plus interest.
(d) Liquidated damages. (1) NRCS may include terms in a program contract that allow for the assessment of liquidated damages in the event of a violation.
(2) The amount of any liquidated damages will be set at an amount reasonably calculated to reimburse NRCS for its foreseeable losses in the event of a violation by the participant and will not be punitive in nature.
(3) NRCS will enforce a liquidated damage provision if the Chief determines doing so is in the best interests of RCPP.
(e) Hardships. (1) NRCS may allow a participant in a program contract terminated in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (b) of this section to retain a portion of any payments received appropriate to the effort the participant has made to comply with the program contract, or in cases of hardship, where NRCS determines that forces beyond the participant's control prevented compliance with the program contract.
(2) The condition that is the basis for the participant's inability to comply with the program contract must not have existed at the time the program contract was executed by the participant.
(3) If a participant believes that such a hardship condition exists, the participant may submit a written request to NRCS for relief pursuant to this paragraph and any such request will contain documentation sufficient for NRCS to determine that this hardship condition exists.
(f) Death, incompetency, disappearance. In the case of death, incompetency, or disappearance of any participant, NRCS may, as identified in the program contract, terminate the contract, make any payments due under this part pursuant to guidance under applicable provisions of parts 707 and 1400 of this title (including payment to successor(s)), or take any further action that the Chief determines is fair and reasonable in light of all of the circumstances.
(g) Administrative errors. NRCS reserves the right to correct any and all errors in entering data or the results of computations in a program contract. If a participant does not agree to such corrections, NRCS will terminate the program contract.