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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Ag Land Easements (ACEP-ALE)

Four large bales of hay in dip in the land of a large field.

ACEP-ALE is an easement program that maintains properties as farms.  

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) is a voluntary program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) whose purpose is to protect agricultural lands by limiting non-agricultural uses. The program was established by the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. NRCS partners with approved state or local units of government, and certain nongovernmental organizations who arrange for the purchase of development rights through conservation easements on private lands. The entity holds and manages these conservation easements in perpetuity.

NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement on approved parcels. All parcels are ranked individually on their own merit. Funds will be awarded to the highest ranked eligible parcels through a statewide competitive process. Conservation easements on funded parcels must close by March 31, 2024. Entities must bear the cost of appraisals, surveys when needed, title search, legal and closing costs, and monitoring and enforcement of the easement. More specific information may be obtained from the contact person listed below.

Entity Eligibility Criteria

Any state or local unit of government, or qualified nongovernmental organization can apply for ACEP-ALE funds by demonstrating:

  • A commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural lands
  • A capability to acquire, manage, and enforce easements
  • Sufficient staff dedicated to monitoring and easement stewardship
  • The availability of matching funds

Eligible nongovernmental organizations:

  • Are organized for and, at all times since the formation of the organization, has been operated principally for one or more of the conservation purposes specified in clause (i), (ii), (iii), or (iv) of section 170(h)(4)(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
  • An organization described in section 501(c)(3) of that code or is described in section 509(a)(3) of that code and is controlled by an organization described in section 509(a)(2) of the that code.
  • Described in paragraph (1) or (2) section 509(a) of that code or is described in section 509(a)(3) of that code and is controlled by an organization described in section 509 (a)(2) of that code.

The clauses under section 170 address the following:

  • The preservation of land areas for outdoor recreation by, or the education of, the general public.
  • The protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, plants, or similar ecosystems.
  • The preservation of open space (including farmland and forest land) where such preservation is
    • for the scenic enjoyment of the general public.
    • Pursuant to a clearly delineated Federal, State of local governmental conservation policy and will yield a significant public benefit.
  • The preservation of a historically important land area or a certified historic structure.

Eligible entities who have parcels selected to receive ACEP-ALE funding will sign an agreement with NRCS. Entities must submit the proposed easement deed to NRCS at least 90 days prior to the planned closing date.

Information of Interest for Potential Entities

Parcel Eligibility Criteria

Eligible land must:

  • Be privately owned
  • Meet at least one of the four following eligibility requirements:
    • Contain at least 50% prime, unique, statewide, or locally important farmland
    • Contain historical or archeological resources
    • Protect grazing uses and related conservation values
    • Further a State or local policy consistent with the purposes of the program
  • Be subject of a pending offer from the entity
  • Contain cropland, grassland, pasture land, or forest land that contributes to the economic viability of an agricultural operation
  • Not include forest land of greater than two-thirds of the easement
  • Possess on-site and off-site conditions which will allow the easement to be effective in achieving the purposes of the program
  • The eligibility of the land and the landowner for each parcel must be established at the time the parcel is submitted for potential funding.

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For each parcel, the landowner's legal name and contact information must be provided. Additionally, a CCC-901, Members Information form or a CCC-902E, Farm Operating Plan for an entity must be signed by the landowner and on file with the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The landowner must be compliant with Highly Erodible and Wetland Conservation provisions of the 1985 Farm Bill, as amended. A current AD-1026, Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form must be on file with FSA.

Adjusted gross income (AGI) self-certification is required. Landowners are required to meet the adjusted gross income limitation, earning less than $900,000 in income for each of the past three years. CCC-941 must be filed with FSA to complete this requirement.

NRCS Parcel Ranking Process

As part of the ranking and eligibility process, NRCS will complete a pre-acquisition database search for hazardous materials on or near the parcel. In addition, NRCS will conduct an on-site visit to determine the condition of the land. NRCS will also interview the landowner to ensure that all ACEP-ALE requirements are understood and that any information collected is accurate and complete.

2021 Kentucky ACEP-ALE Ranking Questions (PDF)

As a condition for participation, NRCS will develop a conservation plan for all Highly Erodible Land. To ensure compliance with the plan, the easement shall grant to the U.S., through NRCS and its successor or assigns, a right of access to the easement area.

Application Submissions

Interested entities must complete the following information:

Applications may be submitted by mail or electronically.

Applications should be marked "PRIVATE" and addressed to:

Deena Wheby, Assistant State Conservationist
771 Corporate Drive, Suite 300
Lexington, KY 40503
Phone: 859-224-7403

State Contact:

Deena Wheby
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
Phone: 859-224-7403

National ACEP Information