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NRCS Offers $332 Million to Protect Farmland, Wetlands, Grasslands

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) is offering up $332 million through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to help farmland and ranchland stay in agriculture and to protect wetlands and grasslands, vital habitat for many of the nation’s animal and plant species.

This USDA aid is available to help farmers, ranchers, and private forest/wetland/grassland owners keep land viable and productive using their expertise and Farm Bill funding, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Conservation easements serve as a vital tools to help provide long-term protection of our land for future generations.

“ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to nonagricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat, and protection of open space,” says a USDA release. “American Indian tribes, state and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.”

The new agricultural land easement component of the Farm Bill is the new “grasslands of special environmental significance.” This allows for the protection of high-quality grasslands that are susceptible to convert into cropping, urban development, and other nongrazing uses.

Agricultural Land Easements have a tradition of protecting the long-term assets of agricultural farm and ranchland. With more and more land being converted to nonagriculture uses and a population growing, farmland is becoming vital to feeding our world.

Wetland Reserve Easements to restore, protect, or enhance wetlands are available as permanent easements, 30-year easements, term easements, and 30-year contracts (Indian tribes only).

Landowners and partners interested in utilizing conservation easements to address urban sprawl or natural resource concerns can submit ACEP applications to the NRCS. Applications can be submitted at any time of the year, but if you’d like yours to be considered for this year’s funding, submit your application on or before May 15.

To learn more about ACEP, land eligibility, benefits of applying, and other technical and financial aid through the NRCS conservation programs, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

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