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Water sits in a macro at a a restored wetland area In Starke County, Indiana May 25, 2021. The area is enrolled in the NRCS' Wetland Reserve Easement Program. The easement includes 200.6 acres of former cropland that were restored to create wetland, prairie and forest habitat for wildlife. The restoration included the installation of 16 acres of macros, which are shallow pond-like areas with diverse topographies that hold water at various times of the year depending on the water table’s height. 
In winter

Nebraska Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

ACEP

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements.

NRCS is streamlining its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to improve the program for landowners and partners. Learn more about these changes.


The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) protects the agricultural viability and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses which negatively affect agricultural uses and conservation values, protect grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring or conserving eligible grazing land, and protecting and restoring and enhancing wetlands on eligible land.

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 non-agricultural 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.

Additionally, through ACEP, USDA offers the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a voluntary program through which NRCS enters into agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat.

ACEP and the Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act included $1.4 billion in additional funding for ACEP over five years and it revised ACEP authority, providing Inflation Reduction Act funding for easements that will most reduce, capture, avoid or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, and extending regular program funding through fiscal year 2031. NRCS is streamlining ACEP, to ensure that the program is easier and more convenient to utilize, and to strengthen implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. Specifically, NRCS is streamlining ACEP appraisals, land surveys, and certifying eligible entities who help NRCS and producers enroll land into agricultural land easements. In addition, NRCS is expanding the national priority areas eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding for ACEP easements. For more information, see our fact sheet, ACEP and the Inflation Reduction Act.

On March 13, 2024, NRCS announced it will invest about $138 million of financial assistance from the Inflation Reduction Act in 138 new climate-smart conservation easements, through which farmers and ranchers are conserving wetlands, grasslands and prime farmlands.

Watch How ACEP Works


 

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 offices.usda.gov.

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.