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 Easements component (ALE) of ACEP, NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements 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. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.
Under the ALE component, 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. In Fiscal Year 2017, the applicant will need to describe how the grassland offered for enrollment fits the definition of Grassland of Special Environmental Significance. Easement values for ALE are based on a fair market appraisal.
Though signup is continuous, funding selections are made at specific times during the fiscal year.
Land eligible for agricultural easements 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.
To enroll land through Agricultural Land Easements, NRCS enters into cooperative agreements with eligible partners (tribes, state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations that have farm or grassland protection programs). Each easement is required to have an agricultural land easement plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.
Matching Contributions and Waiver Information
NRCS can partner with a cooperating entity to contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. The cooperating entity must provide an amount that is at least equivalent to the Federal share. A cooperating entity may include as part of its share a qualified conservation contribution (donation) from the landowner if the entity contributes its own cash resources in an amount that is at least 50 percent of the Federal share. Under no circumstances may the eligible entity acquire its minimum cash contribution through additional cash contributions, payments, fees or loans paid by the landowner.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program's Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) authorizes two exceptions under which a waiver may be granted by NRCS, to:
Increase the cost-share amount for Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance. Where NRCS determines that Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance will be protected and a waiver to increase the NRCS contribution has been requested, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
Reduce the cash contribution from the cooperating entity for projects of special significance.
How to Apply
To enroll Agricultural Land Easements, eligible partners must submit the respective applications listed below to the NRCS Ohio State Office at:
United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
200 North High Street, Room 522