Nebraska NRCS has announced it is now accepting applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP), specifically for wetlands reserve easements. The applications will be rated according to the easement’s potential to protect and enhance habitat for migratory birds, fish, and other wildlife. Applicants will be compensated with a payment rate comparable to local land use value. (Click here and scroll down to ‘Wetland Reserve Easements’ to find a .pdf file listing the payment rates.)
Applications can be submitted at any time but applications for 2014 funding are due by June 6, 2014. Note that applicants will need to provide accurate records of ownership and make certain s/he have established a record of ownership with FSA. Information on the application process, including the application itself, is available here.
NRCS is committed to working with interested applicants through the process of applying for ACEP and creating an easement that works best for the farming operation. You are also welcome to contact us if you need further information or help!
This post does not promise to be a comprehensive review of all the new programs and funding in the new Farm Bill. Rather, it is a short review for you to begin to think about ways in which you can potentially use some new programs or additional funding in the Farm Bill for your own operation. (For a thorough review of the beginning farmer initiatives, click here.)
So what’s in there?
- Additional funding for beginning farmer and rancher training and outreach programs. This website and program is funded via the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. That program has received additional funding with a new emphasis on military veteran farmers.
- Enhanced premium subsidies for crop insurance. The enhanced subsidy of 10 percent points is only for a beginning farmer in the first five years of his/her farming career.
- The Farm Service Agency’s microloan program becomes permanent. For beginning and military veteran farmers, microloans will no longer have a term limit.
- Additionally, the FSA will continue to prioritize beginning farmers in its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan programs.
- NRCS’ EQIP program will continue to cost-share with beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers. Additionally, while a farmer can current receive up to 30% of a project’s cost in advance, the new farm bill increases the possible cost-share to 50%.
- Land access is obviously an important topic and there are some new initiatives for beginning farmers. The FSA Down Payment Loan Program increases the value of land eligible from $500,000 to $667,000. A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, per the Land Trust Alliance:
The Agricultural Lands Easement program (ALE) combines the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). ALE is part of the larger Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which also contains the former Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
- There are some additional provisions, such as conservation funding and a return of the Transition Incentive Program (with an increase in funding) administered by the FSA. There are also some clarifications within the Value Added Producer program defining beginning farmer status in multi-applicant applications.
Overall, there are some interesting opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers in the new Farm Bill. As the new programs, additional funding, and more details become available, we’ll know more about how to maximize use of the programs for specific types of operations. But as of now, there appears to be a significant amount of promise in the new Farm Bill for beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and veteran farmers.