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Comparing the NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Connecticut S

Comparing the NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Connecticut State Farmland Preservation Program

The USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and the State of Connecticut's Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) are voluntary programs that help farmers keep their land in agriculture. The programs relieve the pressure on farmers to sell their land to developers by allowing them to sell a conservation easement (FRPP) or sell the right to develop the land (FPP) to the state or other approved entity. The two programs may be used separately or together. Following is a comparison between the two:

Comparing the NRCS FRPP Program with the Connecticut FPP Program

 
NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program State of Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program
Open to federally recognized Indian tribes, states, units of local government, and nongovernmental organizations (entities) who have a pending offer with a private landowner for the purpose of acquiring a conservation easement to protect agricultural uses. Open to individual landowners and municipalities with qualifying farmland preservation programs and an application that qualifies for the program.
Interested entities submit proposals when the Request for Proposals (RFP) is published on grants.gov. Entities have 45-60 days from date of RFP to submit proposals for funding. The RFP is published annually, usually in spring. Interested landowners apply directly to the program through the State Department of Agriculture. Program funding is authorized through the State Legislature on an annual basis.
Eligible land includes farm and ranch land that has prime or statewide important farmland soil or that contains historical or archaeological resources. There is no minimum acreage to participate in the program. Eligible land must meet minimum scoring criteria and be accepted by the state Commissioner of Agriculture. Successful applicants must own farms containing a high percentage of prime and important soils and be located in established farm communities. Applications for less than 30 acres are generally denied.
Entities may request up to 50 percent matching funds based on the appraised Fair Market Value (FMV) of the conservation easement. Landowner donation and entity funds make up the remaining FMV of the conservation easement and may include Open Space Funds or PDR funds. State Commissioner of Agriculture negotiates Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) value with landowner based on the difference between the appraised unrestricted market value and the appraised market agricultural value. Development Rights may also be offered as bargain sales or donations. The offer must be approved by the state Properties Review Board.
FMV appraisals are completed prior to submitting proposals to NRCS. The appraisal must meet Yellow Book standards and be current (within 1 year) at time of closing.  FMV appraisals are requested after the commissioner ranks and accepts the application, and the commissioner and landowner have negotiated and agreed to the configuration of the application and specifics of the restrictive deed language.
Funds covering easement acquisition are paid by the entity - not NRCS. Funds covering the cost of PDR acquisition - including appraisal costs, fund for an A-2 survey, title insurance, and title search - may be paid by the Department of Agriculture.
Specific easement language addressing the conservation plan, liability and indemnification, and a contingent right clause - all of which name NRCS or the United States - is required. The USA will be listed as a co-grantee in the deed. The deed covenant is approved by the state attorney general and may be modified to meet federal requirements for the NRCS.
An NRCS conservation plan to address Highly Erodible Lands (HEL) is required prior to closing. The plan is developed and approved with the landowner, farm operator, NRCS soil conservationist, and local conservation district. Because the program is subject to the National Food Security Act Manual provisions, HEL and wetland conservation provisions also must be adhered to on any other parcel(s) that the landowner farms. An NRCS conservation plan is often required. If federal funds are applied to an acquisition, federal requirements apply, including the farm property being managed in accordance with a conservation plan which utilizes and the standards and specifications of the NRCS field technical guide.
Loss of farmland or topsoil under easement to impervious surfaces is limited to 2 percent of the total easement acreage. For easements less than 50 acres, one acre of impervious surface area is permitted. Loss of farmland or topsoil under easement is limited to no more than 5 percent of the prime farmland acreage within the total parcel acreage. Consideration is given to acreage and productivity of arable land for crops.
Proposals are funded based on Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) ranking and funds available to NRCS. Easement closing and exchange of funds is expected within 2 years of awarding grant. Applications are funded based on how quickly negotiations between the landowner and commissioner are completed and approved from the State Bond Commission can be obtained. The time between application and closing is typically several years.
The easement may be transferred to a different entity with prior approval from NRCS.
 
Development rights may be held jointly with a municipality, and may provide for a contingent right to the NRCS. No transfer of the easement is allowed.

For more information about the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, contact Joyce Purcell at (860) 871-4028

For more information about the Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program, contact Joseph Dippel at (860) 713-2511