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Easement Programs for Cotton Producers
Updated: June 19, 2014
NRCS offers easement programs to landowners who want to maintain or enhance their land in a way beneficial to agriculture and/or the environment. All NRCS easement programs are voluntary.
The 2014 Farm Bill repeals three former easement programs. These include the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP), the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). This does not affect any landowner who entered into an easement agreement or contract prior to February 7, 2014. The Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (AECP) is the newly created program that consolidates the three former programs.
How it works:
The basic purpose and structure of all agricultural conservation easements are the same. However, each easement is tailored to the specific farm being protected. Exact language in the easement may reflect future expansion plans of the landowners, including the needs of their heirs, however a cotton producer is best advised to plan for those needs. The value of a conservation easement usually is determined through a professional appraisal. The appraiser assesses the difference between the fair market value of the property, often using comparable sales, and its restricted value under the easement. The easements generally restrict non-farm development and subdivisions. Some farm-related housing may be allowed. Generally, there are few restrictions on improvements and construction related to the farming operation; however a producer is well advised to provide for such activities in the easement. The easements are permanent or long-term in nature and become part of the land deed and are recorded in the local land records.
Components of ACEP
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits.
·Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land.
·Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands. This program is a consolidation of the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland reserve program, and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection program.
Former Easement Programs:
The Grasslands Reserve Program(GRP) protected, restored, and enhanced grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, shrubland, and certain other lands.
The Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program(FRPP) helped purchase development rights which kept productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses.
The Wetlands Reserve Program(WRP) protected, restored and enhanced wetlands. It had the goal of achieving the greatest wetland functions and optimum wildlife habitat on every acre enrolled in it.
Land eligible for agricultural easements includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forest land. 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. Each easement is required to have an agricultural land easement plan that promotes the long-term viability of the land.
Land eligible for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement's potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. This easement includes the right for NRCS to develop and implement a wetland reserve restoration easement plan.