Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Wetland grass in foreground with marsh surrounded by trees in the background

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Wisconsin

ACEP
Apply by: October 31, 2022

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.

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

Agricultural Land Easements 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.


Benefits of ALE

Agricultural Land Easements protect 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, ALE easements leverage local partnerships to match NRCS funding and local partners are responsible for the long-term stewardship of the easement.

 

Who is eligible for ALE?

  • 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 for ALE?

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 which also meets 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 ALE 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.

Farmland Protection Directory    
Land Trust Alliance    

 

Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE)

Wetlands Reserve Easements help private and tribal landowners protect, restore and enhance wetlands which have been previously degraded due to agricultural uses.

 

Benefits of WRE

Wetland Reserve Easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity, provide resilience to climate change and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.

 

Who is eligible for WRE?

Eligible landowners include:

  • Owners of privately held land including land that is held by American Indian tribes.
  • 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 for WRE?

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

 

How Does WRE Work?

To enroll land through wetland reserve easements, NRCS enters into purchase agreements with eligible private landowners or Indian tribes that include the right for NRCS to develop and implement a Wetland Reserve Plan of Operations (WRPO). This plan will detail practices to help restore, protect and enhance the wetlands functions and values.

Wetland Reserve enrollment options include:

  • 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.  
  • Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term 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.

For all Wetland Reserve Easements options, NRCS pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and appraisal fees and title insurance.

Learn more about the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP).

 

How to Learn More about ACEP

Landowners - to learn more about both ALE and WRE, 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     (farmlandinfo.org)


Eligible Entities - to learn more about Agricultural Land Easements, please contact your NRCS state office programs staff to inquire about how you can partner with NRCS to enroll conservation easements on eligible land.

ACEP-ALE for Entities     (farmlandinfo.org)

Over the past 28 years, NRCS has worked with landowners to protect more than 5 million acres of wetlands and agricultural lands, a value of over a billion dollars in a diversified real estate portfolio that has resulted in improved soil health, improved water and air quality, protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, enhanced resilience to climate change and increased food security through protecting the long-term viability of our nation’s best agricultural lands.

Wisconsin Program Contact

Greg Kidd
greg.kidd@usda.gov
(608) 662-4422, ext. 252

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 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.