USDA Conservation Assistance to Protect Agricultural Lands in Arkansas Webinar
1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. CT, Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Sponsored by the USDA – National Resources Conservation Services, and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust
For more information and to register, visit https://www.nwalandtrust.org/ale
Private landowners, tribes, land trusts and other groups wanting to restore and protect critical agricultural lands at a minimum of 15 contiguous acres through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) are encouraged to join this webinar. Farm seekers, real estate professionals, farmer focused educators as well as local food supporters will also benefit from learning about this program, and possible financial assistance to landowners interested in estate, and legacy planning.
“For over 25 years, NRCS has worked with landowners in Arkansas to protect their wetlands and agricultural lands,” said Mike Sullivan, NRCS state conservationist in Arkansas. “Conservation easements are important tools for people who are trying to improve soil health, water and air quality and wildlife habitat on their land.”
ACEP provides assistance to landowners and eligible entities helping conserve, restore and protect wetlands and productive agricultural lands and grasslands. NRCS accepts ACEP applications year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods. THE FOCUS OF THIS WEBINAR WILL BE ON AGRICULTURAL LAND EASEMENTS.
Agricultural Land Easements
Through ACEP Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), NRCS provides funds to eligible entities to purchase easements on private working lands. $350,000 is available for Fiscal Year 2021. This program helps keep working lands working, especially in areas experiencing development pressure.
Eligible cooperating entities 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 matching 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 ALE.
The Northwest Arkansas Land Trust (NWALT) is an eligible entity and has been working with the state NRCS office to submit ALE applications. Through NWALT’s Farmland Preservation Program as part of the NWA Food Systems Initiative, it is also managing the Farmland Access Fund, where it helps farmers find farms suitable for fruit and vegetable production. Through a voluntary conservation easement process supported by the fund, the cost of the farmland is reduced, forever protected, and it is more likely to support a viable farm business. This fund has $350,000 available through 2025. FAF is reserved for properties and farmland in Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington Counties.
What you will learn:
-History of ACEP ALE
-Producer and Parcel Eligibility Requirements
-The Application Process
-Funding Availability and Value
-NWA Land Trust Farmland Preservation Program
-NWALT Farmland Access Fund Farm Seeker/Farmland Eligibility
-NWALT Application Process
ACEP remains a major part of the 2018 Farm Bill and program implementation will continue during fiscal year 2021.
Landowners and tribes interested in grassland, wetland reserve easements and partners interested in agricultural land easements should contact their local USDA service center. To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or www.ar.nrcs.usda.gov.
About the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust
Now in its 18th year, NWALT is the region’s first local and accredited land trust, dedicated to enhancing quality of life through the permanent protection of land. By holding and managing land and providing conservation easement services, the land trust protects water quality, local farms, wildlife habitat, and places for outdoor recreation while enhancing quality of life for today and future generations. The service area of the land trust includes 13 counties in Northwest Arkansas, with a core focus on Benton and Washington counties. For more information, visit the land trust’s website at www.nwalandtrust.org.