Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Farm field in Delaware

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Delaware


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. 

ACEP has two components:

*Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) help private and tribal landowners, land trusts, and other entities, such as, state and local governments protect croplands and grasslands on working farms and ranches by limiting nonagricultural uses of the land through conservation easements.

*Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) help private and tribal landowners protect, restore, and enhance wetlands which have been previously degraded due to agricultural uses.

Application Cutoff Date Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) for Fiscal Year 2024 is October 31, 2023. Cutoff date applies to Delaware Department of Agriculture's Farmland Preservation Round 28.

WRE Application Cutoff Date for FY 24 is March 10, 2024.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

Under the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component of ACEP, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit nonagricultural uses of the land.

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.  

NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement to the eligible entity.  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.

ALE Eligibility

Land eligible for agricultural easements 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. 


Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)

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.

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.

*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. 

*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.

A WRE is a NRCS held easement so the property owner will be working directly with NRCS throughout the easement process. NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, survey and appraisal fees, and title insurance. After settlement, NRCS also pays to design and implement the restoration component of the project which will be done in accordance with the Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO) developed with the landowner. 

WRE Eligibility 

Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based on the easement's potential for protection and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

The Conservation Easement Deed, What You Need to Know



Contacts for ACEP-ALE and ACEP-WRE

Elena Stewart, Easement Program Manager

Phone: 302-382-1398


Emily Palmer, Easement Coordinator

Phone: 302-519-0152




Back to Delaware Home

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit

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.

how to get started

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 number.

If you don’t have a farm 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 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. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

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.