AFT’s Farmland Information Center Releases New Resources to Help Landowners and Land Protection Entities in the Federal Farmland Protection Program
AFT’s Farmland Information Center just released new resources in the ACEP-ALE Toolkit to help landowners and land protection entities participate in and promote the federal farmland protection program, ACEP-ALE. The ACEP-ALE Toolkit is a collection of resources that includes webpages, factsheets, checklists, videos, and links to applicable policy, national instructions, bulletins, and NRCS forms. The toolkit was developed by AFT’s Farmland Information Center in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS.
What is ACEP-ALE?
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP, is a voluntary conservation program that protects agricultural land from conversion to non-farm uses and conserves and restores wetlands. An Agricultural Land Easement, or ALE, is a permanent easement that stays in effect even if ownership changes. It contains provisions that limit non-farm development and keep the land available for agricultural use.
ACEP-ALE provides matching funds to eligible entity partners—a land trust or public farmland protection program—to purchase agricultural land easements. It is administered by NRCS, a federal agency that works with farmers and private landowners to improve and protect their soil, water, and other natural resources.
New Tools for Participation
New pages and resources in the toolkit guide landowners and entities through the steps needed to complete ALE acquisitions. Notably, two new resources that help explain NRCS Minimum Deed Terms are now available including:
- A land deed chart that compares options for integrating the minimum deed terms into the ALE deed.
- An annotated guide to the minimum deed terms that provides context and explanations for how the terms may impact agricultural operations.
The toolkit also includes a Land Protection Success Story Template that land protection entities can use to promote completed projects.
Previously released sections of the toolkit introduce NRCS, conservation easements, and the federal program, provide details about eligibility criteria, and explain how to apply to the program. Supporting resources for these topics include:
- Eligibility criteria checklists for land, landowners, and entities.
- Step by step guides for completing an entity application (NRCS-CPA-41) and a parcel application (NRCS-CPA-41A) with suggestions on documentation to support the applications.
- Instructional videos including How to Use the Farmland Protection Directory, which helps landowners find a partner entity, and How to Use the Web Soil Survey, which helps entities assess the soil and land uses on a specific parcel.
- The Farmland Protection Directory to help agricultural landowners identify a farmland protection partner.
Benefits of ACEP-ALE
ACEP-ALE helps keep threatened farmland and ranchland available for agriculture by compensating you for choosing to permanently protect your land from development. In addition, the program can help:
- Improve farm viability. Proceeds from the sale of agricultural conservation easements can help improve the bottom line of farm businesses and provide capital for producers to invest in their operations. Farmers and ranchers have used this money to construct, expand, or repair agricultural buildings or structures; buy equipment for farming, processing, or marketing agricultural products; or buy additional land.
- Transfer agricultural land to the next generation. Permanently protected land is usually more affordable because the agricultural conservation easement limits future non-farm development, which may lower fair market value.
- Implement or expand sound farming practices. The program ensures that highly erodible land is subject to a management plan. It also involves farmland protection partners to help landowners learn about conservation practices and grant the capital to implement them.
Our Farmland Information Center staff are available to answer questions about ACEP-ALE, protecting farmland or ranchland, and to recommend model policies and programs that help drive successful land protection. Visit our website at www.farmlandinfo.org, submit a question using our online form, or call us at (800) 370-4879.