If you are an agricultural landowner interested in protecting the integrity of your property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) urges you to consider safeguarding your ag land with a conservation easement. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) protects the agricultural viability and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses which negatively affect agricultural uses and conservation values. The ACEP protects grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring or conserving eligible grazing land, and it also protects, restores and enhances wetlands on eligible land.
Under the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component of the program permanent agricultural land easements are funded to protect the future of the nation’s food supply, and to also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, and historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Interested landowner applicants must apply through an eligible entity – such as a land trust, municipality, or State agencies. 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.
Under the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component, landowners may apply directly to NRCS for a conservation easement to restore wetlands impacted by agriculture. Wetland Reserve Easements provide 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, provide resilience to climate change, and provide opportunities for limited recreational activities.
NRCS accepts agricultural conservation easement applications year-round. However, in Florida, applications for FY2023 funding are being accepted until January 31, 2023.
To learn more, contact NRCS at your local USDA Service Center.