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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

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The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits.  Under the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land.  Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.

ACEP Application Deadline is June 6, 2014 by 4:00 PM

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

Purpose

What's New in ACEP?

ACEP is a new program that consolidates three former programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses.  Land protected by agricultural land easements provides additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.

Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance (ALE-GSS)

Protect the long term grazing uses and related conservation values on eligible private range and pasture lands.  The program emphasizes support of grazing operations, maintaining and improving plant and animal biodiversity, and protecting grasslands and shrublands under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development, and other non-grazing uses.

Benefits

NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland.  Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.  

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.

For FY 2014, for ACEP-ALE projects of special significance, the eligible entity cash contribution requirements can be reduced to either: 1) 25 percent for the Federal NRCS share, or 2) 10 percent of the Federal NRCS share in States that offer a State Tax Credit for Qualified Conservation Contribution on agricultural land.  The request for a waiver of the eligible entity cash contribution requirement must be submitted in writing by the entity. The entity must also provide all required supporting documentation identified in the  ACEP-ALE Entity Cash Contribution Waiver Request Letter.

ACEP-ALE Cooperative Agreements and Deed Requirements:

In FY 2014, States must use the FY 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed addendums provided as follows:

1.      The ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for General ACEP-ALE Parcels’for all general ACEP-ALE enrollments, including enrollment of grasslands that are not ‘Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance.’

a.       As in FRPP, multiple parcels may be listed on the attachment to an agreement; however, all parcels must be general ACEP-ALE parcels.  No GSS-parcels can be included on a ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for General ACEP-ALE Parcels.’

b.      Eligible substitute parcels may be listed on the Agreement attachment in FY 2014 only.

c.       If the entity is a State or local government, use the ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for General ACEP-ALE Parcels for State or local Governments.’ 

d.      States must use the general ACEP-ALE deed addendum provided in the ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for General ACEP-ALE Parcels for State of local Governments ’for all FY 2014 general ACEP-ALE enrollments regardless of the eligible entity type.

 

2.      The ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for ACEP-ALE for Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance Parcels ’for all parcels that qualify as GSS under ACEP-ALE.  NRCS is operating under existing GRP regulations and policy in order to implement the Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance enrollment option in FY 2014.

a.       As in GRP, only one parcel may be listed on an agreement.

b.      No substitute parcels may be listed on the agreement attachment.

c.       If the entity is a State or local government, use the ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for ACEP-ALE GSS Parcels for State or local Governments.’

The existing GRP deed for entity enrollments has been updated for ACEP-ALE GSS enrollments and is provided in the ‘FY 2014 Cooperative Agreement for ACEP-ALE GSS Parcels for State or local Governments.’  States must use the ACEP-ALE GSS Deed in FY 2014 regardless of the eligible entity.

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ACEP-ALE 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms

ACEP-ALE-GSS 2014 Cooperative Agreements and Deed Terms

Easement Compensation


ACEP-ALE: All FY 2014 ACEP-ALE Cooperative Agreements specify that the allowable valuation
methodologies for FY 2014 parcels will be limited to the use of USPAP or UASFLA appraisals as outlined in existing FRPP regulation and policy (7 C.F.R. 1491.4(2) and 440 CPM 519 Subpart G) and as clarified below:

  1. The statutory requirements for the determination of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement under ACEP-ALE are different from the statutory requirements under GRP.  Therefore, none of the GRP methodologies for easement compensation determinations can be used under ACEP-ALE, and the AWMAs and GARCs approved for GRP in FY 2014 cannot be used for grassland or Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance enrollments under ACEPALE.
  2. For FY 2014, all ACEP-ALE enrollments, including Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance, must use the ACEP-ALE appraisal and appraisal review specifications below.


ALE Appraisal Specifications

Eligibility

Land eligible for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. NRCS will prioritize applications that protect agricultural uses and related conservation values of the land and those that maximize the protection of contiguous acres devoted to agricultural use.

ACEP-ALE Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance:  Under ACEP, provisions were included to provide an increased Federal share under ACEP-ALE for enrollment of Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance(GSS).  The existing FRPP regulations do not address GSS.  Therefore, for FY 2014 only, the GSS enrollment and cost-share option for ACEP-ALE will be implemented using GRP regulations and policy.  To qualify for the increased cost-share for GSS enrollments in FY2014 only,land must meet theland eligibility requirements in existing GRP regulations and policy.

How to Apply

To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) , eligible partners may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire conservation easements on eligible land. To Apply for Agricultural Land Easements in Oregon-- submit an ENTITY APPLICATION for an AGRICULTURAL LAND EASEMENT (ALE) AGREEMENT (NRCS-CPA-41) and PARCEL SHEET for ENTITY APPLICATION for an AGRICULTURAL LAND EASEMENT (ALE) AGREEMENT (NRCS-CPA-41A), SF-424, SF-424A, AND SF-424B.

To be eligible to participate in ACEP-ALE, at the time of application entities must submit the following:

  • A complete Entity Application form (NRCS-CPA-41) and a Parcel Sheet (NRCS-CPA-41A) for each parcel the eligible entity seeks ACEP funding;
  • A written pending offer signed by the eligible entity for the purchase of an agricultural land easement on each parcel submitted with the Entity Application (NRCS-CPA-41);
  • Evidence that sufficient matching funds are available at the time of application;
  • Evidence of entities capability to acquire, manage, and enforce agricultural land easements;
  • Evidence of their commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural lands;

To assist compiling complete application packets the following checklists are available:

Checklist ACEP-ALE OR Entity Application 2014
Checklist ACEP-ALE OR Parcel Application 2014

Submit complete application packets to:

USDA-NRCS Oregon State Office
1201 NE Lloyd Blvd
Suite 900
Portland, Oregon 97217
ATTN: Bari Williams

Ranking

ACEP ranking will use prior year FRPP for ACEP-ALE, GRP for ACEP-ALE-GSS, and WRP for ACEP-WRE ranking criteria for FY 2014 with minor adjustments.

ACEP-ALE Ranking Criteria
Copy of Oregon Census Data for ACEP ALE Ranking FY14-15
ALE-GSS Screening Criteria
ALE-GSS Ranking Criteria

Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE)

Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.

Benefits

NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a wetland reserve easement.  For acreage owned by an Indian tribe, there is an additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract.  The Agreement for the Purchase of Conservation Easement (NRCS-LTP-31) will be sent to ranked and selected applications. 

Through the wetland reserve enrollment options, NRCS may enroll eligible land through:  

Permanent Easements – Permanent Easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement.  Additionally, NRCS pays between 75 to 100 percent of the restoration costs.
Warranty Easement Deed in Perpetuity (NRCS-LTP-30)
Warranty Easement Deed Exhibit D Water Uses and Water Rights

30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement.  Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs. 
Warranty Easement Deed for 30 years (NRCS-LTP-32)
Warranty Easement Deed Exhibit D Water Uses and Water Rights

Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Contracts – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements. 
30-Year Contract-Lands owned by Individual Indians
30-Year Contract-Non-Trust Tribal Lands
30-Year Contract-Tribal Trust Lands
30-Year Contract Exhibit G Water Uses and Water Rights

For WRE, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance.
NOTE: The forms may have minor changes due to ACEP-WRE and landowners will be required to use the updated forms when they are provided.

Easement Compensation

ACEP-WRE: FY 2014 GARCs -- Coming Soon
In the event an appraisal is preferred or the only option for WRE compensation, an offer of enrollment cannot be made in FY 2014 unless a reviewed and approved appraisal is obtained prior to the obligation deadline of September 12, 2014. If the appraisal and review are not completed prior to the FY 2014 obligation deadline, the application must be deferred but can maintain its priority for funding in FY 2015.

WRE appraisal specifications
WRE GARC -- Coming Soon

Land eligible for Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

To enroll land through Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE), landowners may apply at any time at the local USDA Service Center.  To Apply for Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE) in Oregon –submit an Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) with your local NRCS Service Center.  Your local NRCS Representative will work with you to determine eligibility and provide guidance on additional steps to complete the WRE application as needed.

Ranking

Final WRE Ranking Criteria

More Information

ACEP Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.2MB)

Program Contact

Loren F. Unruh, Leader for Programs, (503) 414-3235.

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

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