American Farmland Trust works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to expand participation in the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). FRPP
provides matching funds to help purchase development rights,
facilitates new and increased state and local spending for conservation easements and provides incentives for states and localities to target funds to important agricultural areas.
Adequate Funding for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program a Must
The 2002 Farm Bill provided historic funding levels for farm and ranch land protection, authorizing $597 million for FRPP through 2007—a 1,000 percent increase from the levels authorized by the 1996 Farm Bill. However, a portion of those gains are lost annually during the appropriations process. FRPP funding has been cut $55 million below the amount authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill. In addition, $42 million in FRPP program funds were used to provide technical assistance for other conservation programs due to a legislative dispute between Congress and the USDA.
New Impervious Surface Standard Imposed
In 2003, NRCS developed new guidelines for use in easement review, including a new policy concerning impervious surfaces. As stated in the FRPP program manual, NRCS will not cost-share on projects that contain or allow over two percent impervious surface coverage on the land under easement. Impervious surfaces include residential buildings, agricultural buildings (with and without flooring) and paved areas both within and outside the conservation easement’s building envelopes. For easements of less than 50 acres, only one acre of impervious surface area is permitted.
Conservation partners throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have expressed concern about this new standard, suggesting that a two percent impervious surface limit could significantly limit the ability of livestock (principally dairy) and greenhouse operations to expand and construct desired agricultural buildings.
The new guidelines are contained in subpart G of the FRPP program manual found at: http://policy.nrcs.usda.gov/scripts/lpsiis.dll/M/M_440_519.htm