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News Release

USDA Invites Input on Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Rule

Roney Gutierrez

Gainesville, Fla. Jan. 6, 2020 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) through March 6.  ACEP is USDA’s conservation easement program that helps protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. Comments can be made on the Federal Register through under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0006.

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review. The rule takes effect on publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS is investing more than $300 million nationally in conservation easements for fiscal 2020.

Changes to ACEP for agricultural land easements include:

  • Authorizing assistance to partners who pursue “Buy-Protect-Sell” transactions.

  • Requiring a conservation plan for highly erodible land that will be protected by an agricultural land easement.

  • Increasing flexibility for partners to meet cost-share matching requirements.

Changes to ACEP for wetland reserve easements include:

  • Identifying water quality as a program purpose for enrollment of wetland reserve easements.

  • Expanding wetland types eligible for restoration and management under wetland reserve easements.

Applying for ACEP
ACEP aids landowners and eligible entities with conserving, restoring and protecting wetlands, productive agricultural lands and grasslands. NRCS accepts ACEP applications year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods that are set locally. For more information on how to sign up for ACEP, visit the Florida NRCS website or contact your local NRCS field office.