Pete Conkle sections off new pasture for his cattle.

Program to protect privately-owned agricultural grasslands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages people and groups wanting to protect agricultural lands, and grasslands to consider enrolling their property into conservation easements. This year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest $77 million in financial assistance to help private landowners, land trusts, and other groups protect these valuable working lands.

Through Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE), NRCS provides funds to partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands. This program helps keep agricultural viability in areas experiencing development pressure.

“This valuable program helps keep working lands working,” said John Wilson, NRCS Acting State Conservationist in Ohio. “Easements are an important tool for people who want to preserve the land for future generations.”

Through ACEP-ALE, landowners continue to own their property, but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. Landowners do not apply directly to NRCS for funding under this program. The cooperating entity applies for matching funds from NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Last year, Ohio NRCS and its partners protected over 4,500 acres of important agricultural land through ACEP-ALE.

Easements are permanent. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and forestlands. Ohio partners include state or local agencies, and non-profits. ACEP-ALE applications are accepted continuously, however application deadline for fiscal year 2021 funding is March 12, 2021. Applications submitted after the deadline will be considered in FY 2022. 

Partners interested in agricultural easements should contact their local USDA service center or Abby McClain at

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  3. I love this program. Best of luck!

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