COLUMBUS, September 10, 2014 – Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Department of Agriculture’s investment of $328 million to help private landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands. The 2014 Farm Bill created the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP, to protect critical wetlands and keep lands in farming for the future.
“Conservation easements help farmers protect valuable agricultural lands from development while enhancing lands best suited for grazing and wetlands to their natural conditions,” State Conservationist Terry Cosby said. “These easements have a dramatic and positive impact on food supply, rural communities, and wildlife habitat.”
Through ACEP, private landowners and eligible conservation partners can request assistance from USDA to protect and restore agricultural land through an agricultural or wetland easement.
Ohio landowners and farmland protection organizations submitted 93 applications requesting $18 million in ACEP funding for conservation easements and wetland restorations. Ohio received $8.3 million for purchasing 17 high quality conservation easements through ACEP, which will protect and restore about 4,500 acres of Ohio’s prime farmland and wetlands.
Farmland and wetlands with conservation easements benefit Ohio residents by improving water quality, providing critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, and preventing the development of prime farmland, which increases food security and provides jobs.
ACEP consolidates three former NRCS easement programs – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program – into two components – one that protects farmlands and grasslands and another that protects and restores critical wetlands.
“The 2014 Farm Bill streamlined USDA’s major easement programs into one to make it as easy as possible for landowners to participate,” State Conservationist Cosby said.
Find more information on ACEP here. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local your USDA service center. Kim Ray, the District Conservationist for the Guernsey/Noble NRCS office can be reached at 740-432-5621