USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

This in from the USDA...

Apply Now to Protect Your Farm and Ranch Lands
Proposals Must Be Submitted by March 21, 2011

Gainesville, FL., January 21, 2011 – If you have farm or ranch lands you want to protect from development, now is the time to apply for help. The USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting proposals now for funding opportunities for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). USDA-NRCS, in partnership with State, Tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations, acquires conservation easements, or other interests in land, from landowners. FRPP provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farms and ranch lands in agricultural use and to protect historic or archeological resources. NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement.

The 2008 Farm Bill provided for a continuous signup to allow eligible entities more opportunities to sign up, but a batching date has been established for fiscal year 2011 funds. Applications must be submitted on or before March 21, 2011, to receive consideration for funding in fiscal year 2011.

Land proposed for the FRPP must meet one of three eligibility categories: 1. Have prime, unique or other productive soil; 2. Contain historic or archeological resources; or 3. Further State or local policy consistent with the purposes of the program.

Eligible entities must secure the appraisal, survey, and title search, prepare the conservation easement deed, and pay for the closing.

Owners of the parcels must have an adjusted gross income of less than one million dollars and be in compliance with the USDA highly erodible land and wetland compliance requirements.

Proposals should be submitted to the attention of Zakia Williams, USDA-NRCS, 2614 NW 43rd Street, Gainesville, FL, 32606. NRCS will obligate funding for the selected parcels in a cooperative agreement with the eligible entities that submitted the selected parcel.

The proposals will be reviewed and evaluated based on the entity’s eligibility, land eligibility, and the extent to which the proposal supports FRPP objectives. Proposals must include adequate proof of a pending offer for the subject land. Adequate proof includes a written bid, contract, commitment, or option extended to a landowner. Pending offers based upon appraisals completed and signed by State-certified general appraisers will receive higher priority for FRPP funding. The proposal shall also contain the following:
· Acreage of the proposed project area (acreage needing protection);
· Acreage of prime, unique, and/or locally important farm land soils that is estimated to be protected;
· Number or acreage of historic and archaeological sites estimated to be protected on farm or ranch lands;
· FRPP cost per acre;
· Rate of land conversion within the County;
· Percentage of funding guaranteed to be provided by cooperating entities;
· History of cooperating entities' experience with acquiring, managing, holding, and enforcing easements (including average annual farmland protection easement expenditures over the past five years, accomplishments, and staff);
· Amount of FRPP funding requested; and
· Participating entities’ estimated unfunded backlog of conservation easements on acres eligible for FRPP assistance.

For more information check out the FRPP website, www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/flfrpp.html or contact Zakia Williams, (352) 338-9554, zakia.williams@fl.usda.gov .

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