USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications from Virginia landowners and governmental and non-governmental groups interested in protecting the state’s wetlands and working farms through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
This signup includes both the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) components of this 2014 Farm Bill program. Applications are accepted on a continual basis, but NRCS requires individuals (WRE) and entities (ALE) interested in fiscal year 2019 funding to submit applications on or before August 31, 2018. If funds are still available, a second signup period will be held with a deadline of October 19.
Properties eligible for WRE include farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored; former or degraded wetlands with a history of agricultural use; wetlands farmed under natural conditions; and “prior-converted” cropland converted on or before December 23, 1985. CRP land established with trees may also be eligible for enrollment through a waiver process. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase and 100 percent of the restoration costs for permanent WRE easements. Landowners can receive 50 to 75 percent of those costs for a 30-year option.
ALE focuses on saving productive crop, grass, pasture, and nonindustrial private forestland from conversion to non-agricultural uses. Eligible partners include state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. Under ALE, partners may contribute as little as five percent in matching funds while NRCS may provide up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
“Over the past 25 years, NRCS has helped protect more than 14,300 acres of Virginia wetlands and productive farmland through 138 conservation easements,” said Virginia State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “Our silver anniversary is a golden opportunity to start your own journey to safeguard wildlife habitat and family farms for future generations.”
ALL ACEP applicants (landowners, entities, WRE, & ALE) must have farm records established with USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/.