Protecting Working Lands: Through USDA Conservation Programs Denise Coleman National Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program Manager USDA, Natural Resources.
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Protecting Working Lands: Through USDA Conservation Programs Denise Coleman National Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program Manager USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Easement Programs for Working Lands Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
Grassland Reserve Program Establishes a reserve of restored, improved or natural grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while allowing lands to be grazed Program capped at 2 million acres Not less than 40 contiguous acres of land Provides for 10, 15, 20, and 30 year rental agreements, as well as, 30 year and permanent easements
How GRP Works: Continuous sign-up. Applications may be submitted to USDA Service Center for conservation easements or rental agreements at any time. Limit future use of the land while retaining the right to graze, produce hay, mow or harvest for seed production (subject to nesting season restrictions for certain bird species) Easements Held By the United States
Eligible Lands Grassland or land that contains forbs or shrubs; Land that is located in an area that historically has been dominated by grassland, forbs, and shrubs and has the potential to provide habitat for animal and plant populations of significant ecological value; Incidental lands may also be enrolled; and Lands owned by individuals who do not exceed $2.5 million for the three tax years immediately preceding the year the contract is approved (an exemption is provided in cases where 75% of the AGI is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry operations).
Enrollment Options Permanent Easement: Based on the appraised fair market value, less the grazing value 30-year Easement: Easement payment equal to 30% of fair market value, less the grazing value Rental Agreement: Annual payments not to exceed 75% of the grazing value of the land for the life of the agreement. Restoration Agreement: 90% cost share for lands that have never been cultivated; 75% on restored grasslands (in-kind contributions allowed)
Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program The purpose of FRPP is to provide matching funds to State, Tribal and local governments and nongovernmental organizations to purchase permanent conservation easements for the purpose of protecting topsoil by limiting nonagricultural uses of the land.
Eligible Lands Farms or ranches must be privately owned and contain: at least 50% of prime, unique, or statewide or locally important soil, or a historical or archaeological resource on the State or National Register, or formally eligible for the National Register. Includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, and pasture land, as well as wetlands and incidental (less than 50 percent) forest land that are part of an agricultural operation. Eligible land must be owned by landowners who certify that they do not exceed the Adjusted Gross Income limitation eligibility requirements. Subject to a pending offer. Pending offer is defined as a willing seller and willing buyer, with cash or donations in hand at the time of application.
How the Program Works: NRCS uses a public notice process to request FRPP applications from eligible governmental entities and non-governmental organizations. During the application window, eligible entities submit parcels that they would like to protect. At the State level, NRCS funds applications that meet FRPP national and state criteria. $497 million authorized level
Ineligible Lands Public Land, unless the acquisition is temporary and the land is transferred prior to easement closure. Land that is already subject to an easement or other deed restrictions that prevents its conversion to non- agricultural use. Land owned by a Trust, whose purpose is to protect historical or natural resources, such as open space, wildlife habitat, and cultural resources, unless the acquisition is temporary and the land is transferred prior to easement closure. Land owned or operated by a landowner not in compliance with highly erodible land or wetland compliance provisions.
Applying for FRPP 1. State Office Develops State FRPP Plan 2. Landowner Submit Applications to Participating Entities 3. National Office Issues Request for Proposal 4. Participating Entities Submit Applications to NRCS State Office 5. State Conservationist Determines Eligibility 6. State Conservationist Rank Applications
Submitting an Application: Necessary Information Organization and Program Information Demonstrated Commitment (years, staff capacity, funding) Demonstrated Capability to Hold and Manage Easements (easement acreage) Demonstrated Staff Capacity Demonstrated Availability of Funds Title and Appraisal Policy Pending Offers ($ in hand)
Submitting An Application Lands to Be Acquired Map of Proposed Parcels Amount and Source of Funding Available Acquisition Criteria Detailed Description of Parcels Map of Other Protected Parcels Estimated Easement Cost Current Appraisals (parcels receive higher ranking)
Submitting An Application Lands to be Acquired Cont. Example of Proposed Easement Deed Indication of Accessibility to Markets Indication of Existing Agricultural Infrastructure Indication of Development Threat Other Assessment Factors Other Partners Any State Required Information
Alabama Facts-2003 FRPP-$1.2 million to protect 622 acres on four farms GRP-nearly $1 million, approximately $300,000 devoted to easement acquisition