USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Delaware is now accepting applications from landowners, and governmental and non-governmental groups interested in protecting Delaware's wetlands and working farms through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
This signup includes both the Wetland Reserve Easement and Agricultural Land Easement components of ACEP. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis, but NRCS requires individuals interested in WRE funding and eligible entities interested in ALE funds for this fiscal year to submit applications by Thursday, March 1.
WRE applicants must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency, and the land should have been owned for two years. Eligible land includes farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored; former or degraded wetlands with a history of agricultural use; wetlands farmed under natural conditions; and prior-converted cropland converted on or before Dec. 23, 1985. Conservation Reserve Program land established with trees may also be eligible for enrollment through a waiver process.
Landowners have two options under WRE. With permanent easements, NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement, and up to 100 percent of the restoration costs. With 30-year easements, NRCS pays the landowner 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
The Agricultural Land Easement component focuses on preserving productive cropland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland from conversion to non-agricultural uses. Eligible partners include state and local governments, and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. Under the ALE, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
"We are so proud of the efforts to preserve our family farms within the state. Last year, we worked with the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation to secure NRCS funding to help place permanent easements on 13 Delaware farms," said Delaware State Conservationist Kasey Taylor. "Through our continued partnership efforts, I look forward to preserving additional lands, whether it is for farmlands to safeguard our food and fiber supply, or wetlands to address water quality and wildlife."