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Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)

Photo of pasture and grassland in Grant County, Wisconsin.NRCS works with eligible partners who purchase Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land.  ALEs can help farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing land by conserving grassland, rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations, such as Land Trusts that have farmland or grassland protection programs. 

NRCS does not work directly with landowners for ALE; instead NRCS provides financial assistance to entities that have existing land trust or protection programs.

NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement to the cooperating entity. 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. The cooperating entity acquires, manages, and enforces the easement.

Find an organization that protects farmland near you

Eligible Land

  1. Private or Tribal land that is, agricultural land, including land on a farm or ranch; and
  2. Is subject to a pending offer for purchase of an agricultural land easement from an eligible entity;
  3. Land that
    • has prime, unique, or other productive soil;
    • contains historical or archaeological resources;
    • the enrollment of which would protect grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring and conserving land; or
    • the protection of which will further a State or local policy consistent with the purposes of ACEP; and
  4. Land that is    
    • cropland;
    • rangeland;
    • grassland or land that contains forbs, or shrubland for which grazing is the predominant use;
    • located in an area that has been historically dominated by grass land, forbs, or shrubs and could provide habitat for animal or plant populations of significant ecological value;
    • pastureland; or
    • nonindustrial private forest land that contributes to the economic viability of an offered parcel or serves as a buffer to protect such land from development

Who can participate?

State, Tribal, church, hospital, school or local entities with a qualifying farmland protection program can participate. A qualifying program utilizes voluntary easements or other legal devices to protect productive farmland or grasslands of environmental significance.

Application procedures - Applications may be submitted at any time

Each year the NRCS establishes a concentrated sign-up period, with application deadline, detailing the current application guidelines and priorities. Eligible entities then submit an application package to the Wisconsin NRCS State Conservationist. The package includes:

  • An overview of the State, Tribal, local or non-profit farmland or grassland protection program;
  • The amount and source of funds available for easement acquisition;
  • The criteria used to set acquisition priorities;
  • Information on pending offers including: parcel size and location, acres of prime farmland, easement cost and duration, historical or archaeological resources, development pressure, zoning, and local land use plans.

NRCS evaluates application packages using required national ranking criteria and state criteria developed with advice from the State Technical Committee.  Selected entities enter program agreements and parcel contracts with NRCS.  

Application Information

Important References

Additional Information

For current information on the Agricultural Land Easements program in Wisconsin contact:

Greg Kidd, Assistant State Conservationist for Easement Programs
Phone (608) 662-4422 ext. 252