The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for fiscal year 2014 funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP is a new program made available to landowners by the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP combines the purposes and functions of 2008 Farm Bill easement programs that included: Farmland and Ranchlands Protection Program, Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program. ACEP has two distinct components: 1) ACEP – Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) to protect agricultural use and related conservation values by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land with a conservation easement; and 2) ACEP – Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement.
Landowners interested in ACEP-ALE must participate in the program by working through an eligible nongovernmental organization, or State, Tribal, or local government that has an existing farmland or ranchland protection program. The eligible nongovernmental organization, or State, Tribal, or local government then submits a ACEP-ALE proposal to the NRCS State Conservationist. Participating organizations are required to hold the easement and provide at least 25 percent matching funds, with NRCS contribution not to exceed 50 percent of the fair market value determined by an appraisal of the property offered for the program.
Landowners interested in ACEP-WRE can participate in the program by working directly with the local NRCS office staff. The local NRCS office will determine land eligibility for the program and determine the appropriate compensation and easement value based off of fair market value Geographic Area Rate Caps approved for 2014. NRCS holds and monitors WRE easements. Landowners may enroll land into ACEP-WRE for a period of 30 years or perpetual easements. Tribes have an option to participate in 30-year contracts.
Applications are accepted on a continual basis; however, the deadline to submit applications for both ACEP-ALE and ACEP-WRE to be considered for FY 2014 funding is close of business on June 2, 2014. Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered when, and if, funds become available.
For more information, please contact your local NRCS Field Service Center District Conservationist or Gary L. Roeder, Assistant State Conservationist – Programs at 775-857-8500 Extension 103.
Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.nrcs.usda.gov/farmbill.
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