WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced that $84 million will be made available through USDA's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program to protect farm and ranch land that is vulnerable to urban development.
The funding is authorized in a provision of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 that targets the conversion of prime farm and ranch land for urban and other non-agricultural uses.
"USDA is committed to conserving our natural resources," Veneman said in a statement released by the Agriculture Department. "Through this program, USDA will work cooperatively with states, tribes, local communities and individuals to protect farm and ranch lands."
Through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), FRPP protects productive agricultural land by purchasing conservation easements to limit conversion of farm and ranch lands to non-agricultural uses. NRCS will accept proposals from interested state, tribal and local governments and non-governmental organizations until the end of April 2004.
The Request for Proposals will be published in tomorrow's Federal Register, March 17, 2004.
For those proposals selected for FRPP funding, USDA enters into agreements with selected entities to support their efforts to protect soils and historical and archaeological sites. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement.
To participate in FRPP, landowners agree to limit the use of their land for nonagricultural purposes and to develop and implement a conservation plan. To qualify, the farm or ranch land must contain productive soils or historic or archaeological sites and be:
- part of a pending offer from a nongovernmental organization, state, tribe or local farmland protection program;
- privately owned;
- covered by a conservation plan;
- large enough to sustain agricultural production;
- accessible to markets for what the land produces; and
- surrounded by parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production.