Last Updated January 26, 2010
Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)
Providing funding to acquire conservation easements on farm and ranch lands to prohibit conversion of lands to nonagricultural uses
The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) (formerly known as the Farmland Protection Program) provides funds to help purchase rights to keep productive farm and ranch land in agricultural use. Working through existing programs, USDA works through eligible State, Tribal, or local governments or nongovernmental organizations (cooperating entities) to acquire conservation easements from interested landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement. Cooperating entities must provide at least 50 percent of the appraised fair market value.
For the FRPP, a conservation easement is an assigned right prohibiting any development, subdivision, or practice that would damage the agricultural value or productivity of the farmland. It is legally recorded in an agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization and restricts land to agriculture and open space use. Restrictions on land use may qualify the land for a real estate tax deduction.
The FRPP was designed to help protect quality farmland in the face of urban growth. Since 1960, on average, 1 million acres of farmland have been converted to other uses each year, often resulting in permanent loss of valuable topsoil and agricultural land.
Application and Financial Information
Applications will be accepted from cooperating entities on a continuous basis by each NRCS State Office. Applications will be ranked one or more times during a fiscal year and cooperative agreements developed with the cooperating entities associated with the farms and ranches selected for funding. If you are considering participation in the FRPP, contact your Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state conservationist for a list of cooperating entities that participate in your state. Only cooperating entities may submit applications because the cooperating entities must provide the matching funds, administer the acquisition process, monitor the easement, and enforce the easement deed.
The state conservationist may consult with the NRCS State Technical Committee to assign weights to nationally-mandated ranking factors, and develop and assign weights to state ranking factors. The state conservationist reviews the requests for participation by using a ranking system based on USDA priorities to protect the most valuable land threatened by development. The ranking system includes such factors as:
- The quality of the land by evaluating the productivity of the soils;
- Economic viability of the farm or ranch;
- Loss of farm and ranch land in the surrounding area;
- Developmental pressure in the area;
- Proximity of the farm or ranch to other protected land; and
- Other factors including its historical, scenic, and environmental qualities.
Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
To qualify, farm and ranch land must:
- Contain prime, unique, or other productive soil, historical and archaeological resources, or land that supports the policies of a State or local farm or ranch land protection program;
- Be part of a pending offer from an eligible State, Tribal, or local government or a nongovernmental organization;
- Be privately owned;
- Have a conservation plan for the highly erodible land on the farm or ranch;
- Be large enough to sustain agricultural production;
- Be accessible to markets for what the land produces;
- Have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services;
- Have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production.
The pending offer must be for the purpose of protecting agricultural uses and related conservation values by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land.
The NRCS will not enroll land that is owned in fee title by an agency of the United States or a State, Tribal, o local government or nongovernmental organization; or land that is already subject to an easement or deed restriction that limits the conversion of the land to non-agricultural use. The NRCS will not enroll otherwise eligible lands where it determines that the protection provided by FRPP would not be effective because of on-site or offsite conditions such as hazardous materials or development in close proximity to the parcel.
To be selected for participation in the FRPP, a pending offer must provide for the acquisition of a permanent easement.
To qualify, landowners must:
- Meet the requirements for adjusted gross income (AGI) provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill; and
- Be in compliance with the highly erodible land (HEL) and wetland conservation (WC) provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill.
To qualify as eligible entities, State, Tribal, and local governments and non-governmental organizations must:
- Demonstrate a commitment to long-term conservation of agricultural or ranch lands through the use of voluntary conservation easements that protect farm or ranch lands from conversion to nonagricultural uses;
- Demonstrate a capability to acquire, manage, and enforce conservation easements;
- Demonstrate staff capacity that will be dedicated to monitoring and conservation easement stewardship;
- Demonstrate the availability of funds equal to at least 50 percent of the estimated fair market value of the conservation easement (including landowner donation);
- Have a title and appraisal policy; and
- Have a pending offer(s) on a parcel(s).
Congress has authorized $743 million in FRPP funding from 2008 to 2012. Future opportunities for funding will be published as a notice in the Federal Register.
Robert Glennon, Manager
Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program
Phone: (202) 720-9476