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USDA Announces Funding for FY2020 Conservation Easement Program

Do you own agricultural land in Connecticut and would like to do your part to help secure the future of the nation’s food supply? Consider keeping that land in agriculture by enrolling it in a conservation easement with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Through NRCS’ Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), land is prevented from being developed or going to a non-agricultural use. Protected land also provides public benefits including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat, and protection of open space.

Connecticut NRCS State Conservationist Thomas L. Morgart has announced the agency is now accepting applications for its ACEP Program, and those submitted by March 27, 2020, will be considered for FY2020 funding. 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.

“USDA is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across the country, as well as to restoring and protecting vital sensitive wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve water quality,” said Morgart.

Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and nonindustrial private forest land. Native American Tribes, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. 

ACEP has two components, one for Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), and one for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). 

  • Under the ALE component, funds are provided to eligible entities that use ACEP funding to purchase permanent agricultural land easements that not only protect the future of the nation's food supply, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, and historic preservation and protection of open spaces.
  • Under the WRE component, funding is provided directly to landowners for the purchase of an easement and for restoration. Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance, and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater, and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners may choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.

Applications for both ALE and WRE are accepted on a continuous basis.

To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit the GetStarted section of our website, or contact your local USDA Service Center.