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Agricultural Conservation Easement Program | Virginia

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

 

 

Due Dates for FY 2021 Funding

The NRCS national office has asked states to move forward with FY21 enrollments while we await publication of the ACEP Final Rule to allow adequate time for initial processing of completed application packages, and to set up records in new ranking and contracting business tools. 

ALE: COMPLETE application packages must be submitted by February 26, 2021 to be considered for current year funding. This is expected to be the only signup period in FY 2021. All ACEP applicants (landowners, entities, WRE and ALE) must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency.

Webinar:  ACEP-ALE Program Agreements and Parcel Contracts: Helps and Hints for Land Trusts by NRCS National ALE Program Manager Jerome Faulkner (April 2020)

At a minimum, ALE applicants should submit these documents by December 18:

  • Program agreement partner entity application (CPA-41 form) and all supporting documents. The NRCS national office must approve this five-year agreement that is required for NRCS to process a Parcel Contract.
  • Parcel contract application (CPA-41A form) for a specific property.  Supporting documents are recommended but not required by this date.
  • Documentation that partner applicants and all parcel landowners have USDA records set up through their local Farm Service Agency (FSA).  (IRS AGI review can take significant time.)

WRE: COMPLETE application packages must be submitted by February 26, 2021 to be considered for current year funding. This is expected to be the only signup period in FY 2021. All ACEP applicants (landowners, entities, WRE and ALE) must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) component, NRCS works through organizations with existing easement programs to protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses. Under the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component, NRCS directly assists landowners interested in restoring, protecting and enhancing enrolled wetlands.

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).

Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

Benefits:  Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) 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 offers additional public benefits, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.

Eligible land includes 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.

Enrollment: NRCS enters into program agreements with eligible partner organizations. Each individual easement is required to have a Highly Erodible Land (HEL) conservation plan as applicable, which promotes the long-term viability of the land.

Assistance:  NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing ALEs that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. (The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrub land.) Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.

Under ALE, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. (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

ALE Application Forms
Documents require Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Word

Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE)

Benefits:  Wetland Reserve Easements furnish 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; and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities.

Eligible land includes 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.

Enrollment: 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 restoration easement plan. This plan restores, protects, and enhances the wetland’s functions and values.

Landowners can elect one of the following options:

  • 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 – Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement for 30 years. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

Assistance:  NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance directly to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands through the purchase of a WRE. An additional enrollment option of a 30-year contract is available for acreage owned by an Indian tribe. 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.

WRE Application Forms
Documents require Acrobat Reader

Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP)

The 2014 Farm Bill replaced the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program with the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership as an enrollment option under ACEP – WRE. WREP continues to be a voluntary program through which NRCS signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat. Application due dates, if available, will be announced later in the year. 

Partner benefits through WREP agreements include:

  • Wetland restoration and protection in critical areas
  • Cost-share restoration or enhancement beyond NRCS requirements through leveraging of resources
  • Participation in the management or monitoring of selected project locations
  • Ability to use innovative restoration methods and practices

More Information

ACEP Program Manual (read online HTML; generate 3.8MB printer-friendly PDF, without Subpart U - Exhibits

To learn how to get started with NRCS, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted

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