10.913 Farmland Protection Program

FEDERAL AGENCY: NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

AUTHORIZATION:

Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, Section 388.

OBJECTIVES:

To purchase conservation easements or other interests on lands to limit conversion to non-agricultural uses of farmland with prime, unique, or other productive soils.

TYPES OF ASSISTANCE:

Direct Payments for Specified Use.

USES AND USE RESTRICTIONS:

Funds are provided to establish partnerships with States, Tribes, or local government entities to leverage their purchase of development rights programs. Federal share for any easement acquisition is limited to a maximum of 50 of the purchase price of the easement, not to exceed the appraised fair market value of the easement. A conservation plan is required for each easement acquired. Acquisition of an easement or other interests on land is for a minimum duration of 30 years, preferably, in perpetuity. A contingent remainder right is incorporated in the 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 Samoa, 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 or Indian tribe or tribal organization 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 approach to protect farmland from conversion to non-agricultural uses; and their capability to acquire, manage, and enforce rights or interests on land. Programs must have a systematic plan for acquiring conservation easements, have a proven commitment, and sufficient funds and staff to monitor easement stewardship.

APPLICATION 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 Procedure: 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 Procedure: NRCS State Offices work with the applicant entities to review their programs, evaluate the priority lists, and forward the proposals through the respective NRCS Regional Office to the NRCS National Headquarters for national consideration.

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

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 agency is to fund its own participation for easement acquisition.

Non-Farmland Protection Program funds must be at least 50 of the purchase price of the conservation easement, not to exceed the fair market easement value. Each cooperating agency is to fund its own administrative costs in acquiring easements, such as survey or title search, and costs incurred in managing and enforcing the easements.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance: Federal funds must be disbursed within two 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 NRCS. Reports on the funds disbursing will be prepared by the Farm Service Agency.

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.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION:

Account Identification: 12-1000-0-1-302; 12-4336-0-1-302. Obligations: (Direct Payments) FY 02 $16,799,950 (Financial Assistance) $700,000 (Technical Assistance); FY 03 $691,200 (Financial Assistance) $28,800 (Technical Assistance); and FY 04 $0 (Financial Assistance) $0 (Financial Assistance).

Range and Average of Financial Assistance: $21,000 to $75,000 per landowner. Average: $48,000.

PROGAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS: In fiscal year 2001, USDA has entered into cooperative agreements with over 52 entities to protect over 34,000 acres of prime, unique, and important farmland.

REGULATIONS, GUIDELINES, AND LITERATURE: Notice of Request for Proposals, Federal Register, Volume 66, No. 14, pp. 6566-6570, January 22, 2001.

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, U. S. Department of Agriculture, P. O. Box 2890, Washington, D. C. 20013. 202-720-9476, Fax: 202-720-0745.

Web Site Address: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.

RELATED PROGRAMS: None.

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.

The Farmland Protection Program provides an opportunity to expand the Federal partnerships with States, Tribes, and local government entities to preserve farmland for future generations; to protect strategic farmland from urbanization; maintain, restore, and enhance ecosystem function; protect historic landscapes, scenic beauty, and open space; and sustain rural economic stability.

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.

General Services Administration Office of Governmentwide Policy Office of Acquisition Policy Regulatory and Federal Assistance Publication Division (MVA)

http://www.cfda.gov/public/viewprog.asp?progid=143