The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands or protect working farms and ranches through conservation easements.
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements 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.
On This Page
The Agricultural Land Easements component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program protects 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. Additionally, Agricultural Land Easements leverage local partnerships to match NRCS funding and local partners are responsible for the long-term stewardship of the easement.
Who is eligible?
- Eligible partners include American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland, rangeland or grassland protection programs.
- Eligible landowners include owners of privately held land including land that is held by tribes and tribal members.
- All landowners, including required members of landowner-legal entities, must meet adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations and must be compliant with the HEL/WC provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985.
What land is eligible?
Land eligible for agricultural easements includes private or Tribal land that is agricultural land, 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, including land on a farm or ranch.
Eligible Land Types must also meet one of the four following land eligibility criteria:
- Parcels enrolled to protect Prime, Unique, or Other productive soil.
- Parcels enrolled to provide protection of grazing uses and related conservation values.
- Parcels containing historical or archeological resources.
- Land that furthers a state or local policy consistent with the purposes of ACEP-ALE.
How does it work?
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land.
For working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. Under the Agricultural Land Easement component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. 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.
Agricultural Land Easements are permanent or for the maximum term allowed by law.
How do I find an eligible partner to hold my Agricultural Land Easement?
Visit the following websites to learn how to find an eligible partner to hold conservation easements.
How to get started?
Landowners - To learn more about ALE, contact your local NRCS office. An NRCS conservationist will visit you and evaluate your land to help you determine eligibility for the various components of ACEP. If your land is eligible for ALE and you are looking for an eligible entity to hold your conservation easement; please visit ACEP-ALE for Landowners - FIC.
Eligible Entities - To learn more about ALE, please contact your NRCS state office programs staff to inquire about how you can partner with NRCS to enroll conservation easements on eligible land.
Documents for landowners or entities considering an Agricultural Land Easement:
ALE Overview for Landowners
ALE Overview for Entities
Resources and media:
Find a potential farmland protection partner
The American Farmland Trust has made finding a farmland protection partner an easy search. You can find eligible partners in our region here!
Learn to use:
Web Soil Survey
Learn to use:
AFT's Farmland Protection Directory
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.