WASHINGTON — The nation’s top easement program for
protecting fertile agricultural land is making it easier for people to enroll
land through advanced certification.
The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program is certifying
eligible entities, such as states, organizations or tribes, to place lands in
this farm bill’s conservation easement program.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service administers the program that has protected more than 2
million acres of the nation’s most valuable lands for the production of food,
feed and fiber since 1996.
This program provides matching funds to organizations to
purchase conservation easements on private working lands.
“Certification is the recognition of a successful
partnership between the entity and NRCS, meaning they’ve already successfully
implemented the program and don’t need direct NRCS involvement,” said Jeremy
Stone, the program’s manager. “It allows them to streamline their processes and
get more conservation on the ground faster.”
State, tribal or local governments and non-governmental
organizations as well as other entities that become certified have more
flexibility and a shorter process to acquire easements. Certified organizations
may enter into longer-term cooperative agreements and conduct the program’s
closings without prior submission of individual appraisals, deeds or title
documents for NRCS review.
To qualify for certification an eligible organization must
hold, manage and monitor a minimum of five of the program’s conservation
easements. For a full list of the certification criteria, visit
Entities may apply for certification by submitting a letter
of request and application materials to the NRCS state conservationist where
they’re seeking certification at any time. Although this is a continuous
application process, to be considered for the first certification round in the
2014 program year, applications must be received by Jan. 3.
These easements ensure that productive farms and ranches
will be kept in agricultural uses forever.
“In order to feed the increasing world population, we must
ensure farmers and ranchers have prime agricultural land available,” said NRCS
Chief Jason Weller. “FRPP plays a crucial role in keeping land in agricultural
uses and certifying entities make that process easier.”