Mar 04, 2014

Ag Easements Part of New Farm Bill

A key tool in farmland protection efforts – a federal agriculture easement program – is part of the Agricultural Act of 2014, the new Farm Bill. But there will be changes.

What we knew as the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) is part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which has two parts: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE). 

American Farmland Trust notes this about the new program: “As with FRPP, the ALE component of ACEP will continue to operate through eligible entities, with USDA providing cost share assistance not to exceed 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.  The cost share provisions are slightly changed from FRPP.  A landowner’s donation may still count towards the non-federal share of the cost of the easement.  However, the entity must now provide a match in cash that is at least 50 percent of the amount provided by USDA toward the purchase price of the easement.”

This change will result in an entity contributing more in cash for projects that include a donation by a landowner of 25 percent or more toward the purchase price of the easement.

For the current year, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers the program, plans to use existing regulations to the extent possible. The agency is developing guidance for states for the new program. We’ll keep you posted.

American Farmland Trust's Farm Bill resources provide background papers and a recorded webinar on the new Farm Bill.

Census Report says Wisconsin Saw a Loss in Farms and Acres Farmed

The state lost 8,700 farms and more than 620,000 acres of land in farms (land no longer part of a farm but not necessarily developed) from 2007 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Preliminary Census of Agriculture. The full report will be out in May, according to USDA. This article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that agricultural economists were surprised by the decline in farmed acreage in Wisconsin. Quoting the article, “Agricultural economist Bruce Jones (UW-Madison) said he was ‘a little bit surprised’ by the loss of farmland…Other reports on land sales have shown a decrease in acres leaving farming. Jones said that led him to believe the loss in farmland was largely in pastures, woodland and property less suited to agriculture. In some cases, he said, farmers could be selling marginal land to raise money to buy more expensive and valuable cropland.” We’ll look forward to the full report in May.