The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Davis, Calif.has set Feb. 15, 2013, as the deadline for accepting applications for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP).
"This program continues to offer private landowners the opportunity to protect farm and ranch lands in a way that keeps working land in production and preserves open space," says Alan Forkey, NRCS California assistant state conservationist for programs.
FRPP is a voluntary conservation easement program that helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agricultural production. The program provides matching funds to state, tribal, or local governments and nongovernmental organizations with existing farmland protection programs to purchase conservation easements. These permanent easements protect agricultural land, and important farmland soils, by prohibiting conversion to non-agricultural uses.
In 2012, NRCS California helped protect four properties including:
*A 253-acre walnut orchard in Lockeford, Calif., that boasts prime soil and a rich history of agricultural production.
*A 392-acre farm in Davis, Calif., that produces a cornucopia of specialty crops including tomatoes, sunflowers and corn.
Private landowners interested in applying for the program must start the process by contacting their local land trust, non-profit conservation group, or other eligible entity with a farmland protection program and funds necessary to match the federal contribution from NRCS.
While NRCS accepts FRPP applications throughout the year, the agency plans to make 2013 funding decisions from a pool of applications received by February 15. As with all NRCS easements, the landowner retains the title to the land, and the right to control access and recreational use. Furthermore, the land remains on the tax rolls.
Since 1996, NRCS has invested $43 million on 82 farms across the state, and leveraged an additional $68 million from landowners and partners - for a total investment of $111 million – to protect California's farms and ranches through FRPP.
More is at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.