Virginia Announces Signups for Agricultural Land Easements
Applications for new Farm Bill program due June 6, 2014
Richmond, May 2, 2014 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications from Virginia governmental and non-governmental partners interested in protecting Virginia’s working farms through the new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP).
This 2014 Farm Bill program provides funds for the purchase of conservation easements on eligible agricultural lands and wetlands. This signup is for the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component, which focuses on preventing productive crop, grass, pasture, and nonindustrial private forestland from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximizing protection of land devoted to food production.
Eligible partners include state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. Applications are accepted on a continual basis, but NRCS encourages eligible entities to apply on or before June 6, 2014 to be considered for funding in fiscal year 2014.
“This is an exciting new opportunity for even more people to get involved in conserving natural resources,” said Virginia State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “We encourage state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and private landowners to contact NRCS to find out how to apply.”
Under the Agricultural Land component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Where NRCS determines that grasslands of special environmental significance will be protected, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Entities can also apply for a waiver from the NRCS State Conservationist to allow the required nonfederal cash match to go from 50 to 25 or even 10 percent through Virginia’s Tax Credit for a Qualified Conservation Contribution on agricultural land. This option requires the landowner to make a voluntary, equivalent increase in the landowner donation portion of the fair market value of the easement.
The ACEP combines NRCS’ former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection, Grassland Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs. NRCS will make ALE funding decisions once all states have submitted applications and agreements will be developed with approved entities starting in August. Virginia NRCS concluded its first batching period for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) on May 2 and does not anticipate conducting another signup this fiscal year.
Applications are available at your local USDA Service Center or www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/.