Published since 1946
USDA Announces Changes to Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
On May 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced changes to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to help streamline the program. The changes will update the processes for appraisals, land surveys, and certifying eligible entities that help enroll land into easements. The improvements were developed following feedback from producers, landowners, and conservation partners and will affect both Agriculture Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).
“NRCS’ changes to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will help us more efficiently and effectively work with producers and partners to protect lands in conservation easements,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “We want our program to be more responsive to our customer needs so that ACEP continues to be a valuable and effective conservation tool that provides long-term protection of our nation’s farmland and wetland resources.”
Specifically, NRCS raised the threshold for national review of ALE proposals to $3 million from $1 million to reflect increased land values, this will help speed up the appraisal process. In addition, NRCS will be working to expand the number of certified entities eligible to participate in ALE by launching a certification initiative to proactively notify potentially eligible entities that they qualify for administrative flexibilities. For WRE, NRCS will begin encouraging the procurement of land surveys earlier in the acquisition timeline, such as when the application has been tentatively selected for a WRE, and increases the use of partnerships to assist with the land survey process. Along with a simplified review process for producer-acquired land surveys, the changes to the program are expected to speed up the enrollment process.