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USDA: Protect Your Agricultural Land with a Conservation Easement

Young pine trees on an agricultural easement in Florida. Photo by USDA NRCS Florida.
Young pine trees on an agricultural easement in Florida. Photo by USDA NRCS Florida.

Florida - Sunday October 1, 2023: Are you an agricultural landowner interested in protecting the integrity of your property? Consider safeguarding your land with a conservation easement through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS accepts agricultural conservation easement applications year-round; however, applications for Fiscal Year 2024 funding are being accepted from October 1st until December 31, 2023.

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.

The Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) component funds permanent agricultural land easements that not only protect the future of the nation's food supply, but also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, and historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Landowner applicants who are interested 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.

Not sure how to begin? Visit our website where you will find information on ACEP benefits, how to apply, all the forms you will need, and more.

Contact Crenel Francis, to apply for ACEP-WRE by December 31, 2023.  Contact Sara May, for information on ACEP-ALE.

To speak to someone about filling out eligibility forms with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Florida, or to obtain an NRCS ACEP application, contact your local USDA Service Center.