Connecticut's Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and Conservation
Connecticut's Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program and Conservation
The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its conservation
partners work with the Connecticut Department
of Agriculture (DOAG), land trusts, and municipalities to encourage farmers to
continue good farming practices by managing
their land according to a conservation plan. Under the Farm and Ranch Land
Protection Program (FRPP), NRCS helps farmers
conduct a resource inventory, an assessment, and develop progressive
conservation plans for farms that have applied to sell
development rights. By cooperating with NRCS, Connecticut will receive
additional federal funds for farmland protection (to
match state funds) and more farmers will be able to participate.
Once a farm has been protected, the farmer must control erosion on Highly
Erodible Land (HEL) and keep the conservation plan
current. These requirements are spelled out in the Conservation Easement.
What is a Conservation Plan?
A conservation plan is a document that describes what you – the farmer – has
agreed to do at the time the plan is developed. It’s your plan, and you make the
decisions. The plan can be a whole farm plan or a progressive plan to address
some (but not all) of the concerns. It documents existing practices and
decisions, and includes a schedule to address natural resource concerns. The
plan can be revised at your request and must be revised when the farm is sold,
new cropland is acquired, or when the operation changes. You may revise the plan
by selecting other options, or by changing the scheduled date of a practice.
The process includes a farm resource inventory and an assessment that
identify issues and opportunities associated with soil, water, air, plant, and
animal resources. This process helps ensure that your needs – and those of your
farm’s natural resources – are met and that federal, state, and local
requirements can be achieved. As part of the planning process, NRCS can help you
identify federal and state programs which may provide financial assistance for
When Do I Need to Have a Conservation Plan Completed?
Before closing on the sale of development rights, both the resource inventory
and conservation plan need to be completed. It’s very important to start the
planning process early. The resource inventory can help you gather information
needed for the application process and to identify issues associated with highly
erodible cropland or other resource concerns that need attention. The sooner you
resolve issues, the easier it will be to receive FRPP funds.
Who Can Help Develop This Plan?
NRCS will help you develop and implement a conservation plan for free! You
can also complete your own plan or hire someone to do it. However, plans must be
reviewed and approved by an NRCS conservation planner and the conservation
district. NRCS can also help you identify funding sources to implement the plan.
What is the Conservation Planning Process?
The planning process identifies your concerns and objectives, inventories and
evaluates natural resource concerns, and presents alternative conservation
systems and practices for your choosing and implementation. An NRCS planner will
help you do this. You will decide which conservation practices to implement.
What About Highly Erodible Cropland?
A plan to protect highly erodible land (HEL) from erosion must be developed
and implemented prior to closing. Highly erodible cropland must be identified
and decisions to control erosion, along with an implementation schedule,
documented. The level of control required is dependent up on the history of the
field. A crop or hayfield must be planned to allow no more than two times the
tolerable (sustainable) soil loss level (2T). Fields with no crop history, such
as areas converted from woodlands, must be planned to allow no more than
tolerable soil loss levels (T). NRCS will make periodic visits to your farm to
monitor this part of your plan.
The following document requires
What if I Do Not Have Money to Implement a Planned Conservation Practice?
If you can’t implement a planned conservation practice due to limited
finances, NRCS will not require you to do so. Instead, NRCS will help you
develop alternatives, revise the timetable, document them and help you find
needed funding. This is your conservation plan. Except for practices used to
control erosion on HEL, there are no mandatory out-of-pocket expenditures. Most
practices used to control erosion are low cost. Typical practices may include
adopting a corn-grass rotation or timely planting of cover crops.
If NRCS Finds a Violation on my Land, Will They Report Me to Other Agencies?
An NRCS conservationist will perform most of the inventory and planning work
on farms applying for conservation easements. During the inventory, NRCS will
determine if HEL or wetland conversion violations have occurred. Most HEL
violations can be easily resolved by implementing the required practices. NRCS
will give you one year to implement or install them. Longer term HEL violations
will be referred to DOAG, or whomever manages the easement. These are considered
a breach of the terms specified in the conservation agreement. NRCS will not
report wetland conversions to other agencies. However, if you desire to remain
eligible for most USDA programs, you will have to resolve the wetland
Will the Land Trust or DOAG Help Me Implement or Revise the Plan?
You should work with the NRCS staff on planning and implementation. You may
be contacted by the land trust or DOA during their normal stewardship visits,
but land trust and DOA monitors do not have the expertise to help understand,
explain or change the plan. NRCS staff will share the plan with these groups, if
How will the Conservation Plan Affect My Ability to Sell My Farm?
You’re free to sell the farm but the new owner must comply with the legal
restrictions of the Conservation Easement. The new owner should contact NRCS to
review and revise the conservation plan; especially if there will be changes to
the farm operation. It’s mandatory for the new owner to develop and implement a
NRCS approved plan to protect cropland from erosion.
Nine Steps to Conservation Planning
Conservation Planning is a dynamic process. The time involved depends on your
interest and the size of your operation. The steps
- Identify Problems and Opportunities
– Early on in the process, the conservation planner will work with you to
identify farm problems, concerns, and opportunities. As planning proceeds,
other issues may be identified.
- Determine Objectives – For
the plan to be meaningful, the planner must have a good idea of your farm
objectives. What problems and opportunities do you want to address? What land
uses do you want to maintain? What are your production and business goals?
Legal or program requirements? Your desires for your farm and business?
Considerations identified in the process will be factored into the plan.
- Inventory Resources – You and
the planner will inventory your farm’s natural resources. The focus will be on
issues already identified and may lead to other issues. The inventory may
include field land use and acreage; summary of soils and interpretations;
current farming practices; existing conservation practices; soil erosion
levels; potential wetland areas; livestock types, numbers, and sizes; water
resource needs and concerns; plant suitability and production concerns;
wildlife habitat; and economic and social considerations.
- Analyze Resource Data –
Depending on the resources inventories, the planner will analyze the data with
you. For instance, the planner will take the data gathered from the field and,
using a soil loss equation analyze soil loss levels with the current crop
rotation and method of planting the field.
- Formulate Alternatives – Once
the resource inventory and analysis has been completed, the planner will work
with you to develop alternatives for your resource concerns. If you can’t
afford to address a concern, NRCS will provide at least one alternative.
Except for HEL crop fields. NRCS will not force you to address all concerns.
- Evaluate Alternatives – Each
identified alternative will be examined and compared based on factors such as
cost, effectiveness, and ease of management. This will provide you with the
information necessary to make a
- Make Decisions – Only you can
make the decisions and work out the schedule for your plan. NRCS will help you
document those decisions.
- Implement the Plan – Only you
can implement the plan, but NRCS can help! If you are prevented from
implementing according to the original schedule, the plan can be updated and
revised to reflect your current situation.
- Evaluate the Plan – If NRCS
is not already working with you on implementation, they will schedule a farm
visit every 2-3 years to help evaluate the plan’s effectiveness and the
performance of the existing conservation practices.