The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, American Indian tribes and other entities keep working farms in agriculture and restore and protect degraded wetlands by removing them from production.
Virginia Program Overview
From Cape Charles to the Cumberland Gap, Virginia's rich natural heritage enhances our quality of life and supports a strong economy. Conservation can play a vital role in preserving these resources for generations to come. In a time when our worlds have become a lot smaller, NRCS is opening new doors for landowners and partner groups to protect the state’s open spaces.
How to Apply
NRCS accepts ACEP applications on a continuous basis but establishes “cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. ACEP is open to all eligible individuals or organizations and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities. All ACEP applicants (landowners, partners, ALE and WRE) must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).
FY2023 Funding Due Dates
- Nov. 4, 2022 – Preliminary applications
- Jan. 27, 2023 – Full application packages
Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)
Documents require Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Word
Preliminary ALE applications consist of: Form CPA-41A, proof of FSA records, landowner deed of ownership and ALE Program Agreement application form CPA-41 (if organization does not have one already established).
Full ALE application packages should be submitted to the Virginia State Office and include all items on the ALE Application Checklist.
Heirs' Property: Applicants who need to resolve heirs’ land ownership and succession issues on agricultural land can seek financial assistance from the Heirs’ Property Relending Program (HRP). More Information can be found here.
This year, 10 percent of our ACEP-ALE funds will be set aside for Historically Underserved (HU) participants. Participants who meet the historically underserved designation of being socially disadvantaged, beginning, limited resource and veteran farmers and ranchers would be considered eligible.
Learn more about ACEP-ALE
- Land Trust Alliance (LTA)
- View NRCS Webinars to include "ACEP-ALE Program Agreements and Parcel Contracts: Helps and Hints for Land Trusts (May 2020)" and "NRCS Program Agreements and ALE Updates (Feb. 2021)"
- American Farmland Trust (AFT)
Wetland Reserve Easements (WREs)
Application Forms (documents require Acrobat Reader)
Preliminary WRE applications go to NRCS staff at the local USDA service center and include: NRCS-CPA-1200, AD-1026 HEL & WC, CCC-941 average adjusted gross income certification, ownership deed, and proof of legal deeded access.
Wetland Restoration Criteria Guide Feb 2021 (867.19 KB)
WRE Ranking Guidance Amended Oct 2020 (186.5 KB)
WRE Application Check List FY2023 (191.17 KB)
WRE Ranking FY2023 (159.75 KB)
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.