USDA offers assistance to protect privately-owned agricultural lands

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 $76 million in financial assistance to help private landowners, tribes, land trusts, and other groups protect these valuable working lands.

Through USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Agricultural Land Easements, NRCS provides funds to conservation partners to purchase conservation easements on private working lands. This program helps keep agricultural viability for future generations especially in areas experiencing development pressure.

“Agricultural Land Easements prevent conversion of valuable productive working lands to non-agricultural uses,” said Lori Ziehr, Ohio Acting State Conservationist. “Land protected by ALEs supports the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply in addition to historic and wildlife habitat preservation.” 

Partners include State or local agencies, non-profits, and tribes. Landowners continue to own their property, but voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with a cooperating entity to purchase an easement. The cooperating entity applies for funds from NRCS for the purchase of an easement from the landowner, permanently protecting its agricultural use and conservation values. Landowners do not apply directly to NRCS for funding under this program. Last year, NRCS Ohio and its partners protected over 1900 acres of important agricultural land through ACEP-ALE.

Easements are permanent. Eligible lands include privately owned cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and forestlands.

Applications are accepted continuously, however, ranking cut-off deadline for fiscal year 2022 funding is Dec. 3, 2021. Applications submitted after the deadline will be considered in future funding rounds.

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