Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

To purchase conservation easements to limit conversion to non-agricultural uses of farm and ranch lands that contain prime, unique, or important soils or historical and archaeological resources.

Examples of Funded Projects

(1) California Department of Conservation's Agricultural Land Stewardship Program; (2) Florida St.

Johns River Water Management District's Georgia-Pacific Project; (3) Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture's Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program; (4) Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Farmland Purchase of Development Rights Program; (5) Vermont Housing and Conservation Board's Farmland Conservation Easement Program; (6) The Nature Conservancy; (7) Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program provides an opportunity to expand Federal partnerships with States, Tribes, and local government entities and nongovernmental organizations to protect farm and ranch land for future generations; to protect strategic agricultural land from conversion to nonagricultural uses; maintain, restore, and enhance ecosystem function; protect historic landscapes, scenic beauty, and open space; and sustain rural economic stability.


Agency - Department of Agriculture

Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.

Office - For a list of NRCS State Offices with telephone numbers and addresses, see Appendix IV of the Catalog.


Program Accomplishments

Not available.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Funds are provided to purchase conservation easements in partnership with States, Tribes, or local government entities, or eligible nongovernmental organizations.

The Federal share for any easement acquisition is limited to a maximum of 50 of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement.

A conservation plan is required for highly erodible lands enrolled under an FRPP easement.

Conservation easements are perpetual easements.

A contingent remainder right is incorporated in the conservation easement deed for the protection of the Federal investment.

A failure of title would require the cooperating entity to reimburse the United States for the Federal share of the easement value.



Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Any local or State agency, county or groups of counties, municipality, town or township, soil and water conservation district, or Indian tribe or tribal organization, that has a farmland protection program that purchases conservation easements for the purpose of protecting topsoil by limiting conversion to non- agricultural uses of land, and that has pending offers may apply for funds.

This program is available in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoas, the Mariana Islands, and the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands.

Individuals must apply through their local agency that handles purchase of development rights programs.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.

12372.

Beneficiary Eligibility

Any local or State agency, county or groups of counties, municipality, town or township, soil and water conservation district, Federally recognized Indian tribe or eligible nongovernmental organization, such as a land trust, may apply.

Credentials/Documentation

Entities must provide documents indicating their commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural lands through legal devices, such as right-to-farm laws, agricultural districts, zoning, or land use planning; uses of voluntary approaches to protect farmland from conversion to non-agricultural uses; and their capability to acquire, manage, and enforce conservation easements. Programs must have a systematic plan for acquiring conservation easements, have a proven commitment to agricultural land protection, and sufficient funds and staff to monitor and enforce conservation easements.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Potential applicants must submit documents to the appropriate State Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and work with NRCS to develop a statewide priority list.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.

12372.

Application Procedures

Application information is included in a Notice of Request for Proposals published in the Federal Register. It is available from the State Offices of the (NRCS), the Federal Register, and USDA NRCS home page, and the Farmland Information Library homepage.

Award Procedures

NRCS State Offices work with the applicants to review their programs, evaluate their priority lists, and award funding to applicants that have submitted parcels that meet FRPP objectives.

Deadlines

Each year funds are available the deadline for applying is published in the Federal Register.

Authorization

Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 3838h and 3838i.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Indicated on the Notice of Request for Proposals published in the Federal Register.

Appeals

Not applicable.

Renewals

Not applicable.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Each cooperating entity is required to contribute towards the conservation easement acquisition. For the cooperating entity, two cost-share options are available when providing its matching offer. The entity must provide, in cash, at least 25 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement or 50 percent of the purchase price of the conservation easement. Each cooperating entity is required to fund its own administrative costs in acquiring easements, such as surveys or title searches, and costs incurred in managing and enforcing the easements.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Federal funds must be disbursed within two to five years after signing the cooperative agreement. Technical assistance to maintain the conservation plan, however, is provided by NRCS through the life of the easement.

Post Assistance Requirements

Reports

Annual reports on the status of the easements acquired will be prepared by the cooperating entity and submitted to the NRCS State Office.

Fund disbursement reports are prepared by NRCS.

Audits

An audit may be made in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular No. A-102 Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and local governments and other related Circulars.

Records

Records of easements acquired will be maintained for the life of the easements by the cooperating entity and NRCS.

Financial Information

Account Identification

12-1000-0-1-302; 12-4336-0-1-302.

Obigations

(Technical Assistance) FY 07 $2,000,000; FY 08 est not available; and FY 09 est not reported. (Financial Assistance) FY 07 $48,000,000; FY 08 est not available; and FY 09 est not reported.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

$2,700 to $1,000,000 per landowner. Average: $97,000.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Notice of Request for Proposals, Federal Register, Volume 68, No. 64, pp. 16253-16258, April 3, 2003.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

For a list of NRCS State Offices with telephone numbers and addresses, see Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Headquarters Office

Farmland Protection and Community Planning Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013. Telephone: (202) 720-9476, Fax: (202) 720-0745.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Criteria used for selecting proposals are: The type and terms of easements, the use by a cooperating entity of a land evaluation and site assessment system to evaluate applications for their program, a programmatic process for systematic easement acquisition, evidence of a successful program, and the magnitude of the resources protected.



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