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Agricultural Land Easements- North Carolina


NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land.

ACEP Agricultural Land Easement and IRA-ALE
Application Cut-off for IRA-ALE November 13th, 2023
Application Cut-Off Batching Date for ALE FY2024: December 1st, 2023
RCPP Upper Cape Fear and Upper Neuse Batching Period: December 1st, 2023

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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 shrub land. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.

Under the ALE component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Easement values for ALE are based on a fair market appraisal.
For Buy-Protect-Sell easements contact Brian Loadholt ( or Terry Foreman (

Good Tools To Start With!!!
•    5 steps to NRCS ALE Assistance Landowner Brochure
•    American Farmland Trust (AFT) ACEP-ALE Resources and Tools for Landowners  
•    American Farmland Trust (AFT) ACEP-ALE Resources and Tools for Entities 
•    Land Trust Alliance (Find a Land Trust in North Carolina)
•    North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services


Partners applying for the program must meet specific entity applicant requirements to be considered eligible. Eligibility requirements can be found in the application checklist. It is possible for applications that fit the criteria to be ranked in both pools.  Please note that there is application package for ACEP-ALE (includes state ranking document) below and different package for ACEP-IRA.

For standard enrollments, all landowners of the property offered for enrollment must meet Farm Service Agency (FSA) payment eligibility criteria as it applies to the NRCS easement programs.  Landowners must ensure they establish or update the property record and applicable payment eligibility paperwork with FSA for the fiscal year in which the application will be submitted.  Landowners should visit with their local USDA Service Center for more information. Buy-protect-sell enrollments may have different payment eligibility requirements; contact NRCS for more information.

IRA enrollment Eligibility-Parcel must be located within the following counties and as identified in the priority area map:
Eligible Counties: : Alamance, Durham, Orange, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Catawba, Lincoln, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, Iredell, Rowan, Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Chatham, Granville, Franklin, Nash, Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover.    

Land eligible for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land.  ACEP-ALE easements may contain forest land on up to two-thirds of the ACEP-ALE easement area. There are many other land eligibility factors that must be considered during an application review including title review.  An onsite visit by NRCS is required and includes hazardous materials and a landowner interview. NRCS will prioritize applications that protect agricultural, or grazing uses and related conservation values of the land and those that maximize the protection of contiguous acres devoted to agricultural use.

To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), NRCS enters into Program Agreements and Parcel Contracts with eligible partners. Co-applicants, co-holders, and third-party-rights holders must also be considered in the application.  The entity and landowner may choose to develop an agricultural land easement plan to further promote the long-term viability of the land. If highly erodible land (HEL) is present on the property as determined by FSA and NRCS, a HEL Conservation Plan will be required and is written by NRCS.

Ranking Process

The State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee has developed ranking criteria to prioritize and subsequently fund applications addressing priority natural resource concerns in North Carolina.  Information on a Ranking Worksheet is used in the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) to assess the site vulnerability, existing conditions, and identify potential resource concerns on a unit of land.  After CART assessment, NRCS uses CART Ranking to evaluate an application in all applicable ranking pools.  More information about the CART evaluation process can be viewed at the CART webpage.

IRA-ALE Ranking Process

As This is a national signup, All eligible ACEP applications must be planned in CD and assessed and ranked using the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART).  IRA ACEP eligible applications will be ranked using a national ranking pool. 

Submitting an Application

To offer land for enrollment in ACEP-ALE eligible partners must submit the application documents listed below to the NRCS North Carolina State Office. The State Conservationist has established a sign-up period to select the highest ranked applications for funding based on the NRCS ranking process.  Contract approval is dependent on program eligibility determinations. Applications are accepted continuously; however, applications must be received by December 1st, 2023, to be considered for funding this batching period for North Carolina General ACEP-ALE.  Applications for consideration of IRA-ALE must be submitted by November 13th.   It is possible for applications that fit the criteria to be ranked in both pools.  Please note that there is application package for ACEP-ALE (includes state ranking document) below and different package for ACEP-IRA. 

How to Apply

Landowners may not submit an ACEP-ALE application directly to NRCS. To enroll land through the ACEP-ALE program, landowners must find an eligible entity (e.g. land trust or soil and water conservation district) to submit proposals to NRCS for a conservation easement. Entities interested in using conservation easements to address natural resource concerns can submit applications at any time, although signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year. Entities must submit the respective application documents listed below to the NRCS North Carolina State Office.

Submit application package as separate documents or documents combined as a PDF portfolio.  
1.    via Box and One Span – Secure cloud content management tools supporting e-signatures. Information on Box and One Span:
•    Sign and Share Documents Securely through Box and OneSpan |
•    Entities adopting Box need to contact Terry Foreman (
2.    via email   
3.    Paper applications may also be mailed to:
Attention: Brian Loadholt
United States Dept of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
4407 Bland Rd., Suite 117
Raleigh NC  27609

Questions about application submittal can be directed to Terry Foreman (

•    AD-1026-Highly Erodible Land Wetland Certification
•    ALE Landowner Checklist for FSA Eligibility 
•    CCC-941 Average AGI 
•    CCC-902-I Farm Operating Plan for an Individual 
•    CCC-902-E Farm Operating Plan for an Entity 
•    CCC-901 Members Information 
I.    Contracting Forms and Supplemental Information

After an easement has been approved some of contracting forms and information that may be helpful include the following.

•    ACEP-ALE Program Agreement 
•    ACEP-ALE-Program-Agreement-Exhibit-1-Signature-Page 
•    ACEP-ALE-Appraisal Specifications  
•    ACEP-ALE Minimum Deed Terms for the Protection of Agricultural Use
•    CPA-1265-Parcel-Cost-Share-Contract   
•    CPA-1265-Parcel-Cost-Share-Contract-Appendix 


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.