The farm bill contains programs that provide funding and training to protect farmland and to help farmers address the challenges that come with stewarding the land. The following programs are examples of farmland protection and conservation programs that are important for farmers in Maine.
Learn more about these programs:
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, helps private landowners, land trusts, and other entities obtain federal funding to protect and preserve working farms and ranches, and to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands and grasslands through the use of long-term easements. ACEP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill by combining three separate conservation easement programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). Maine Farmland Trust has received funding through this Program for its Purchased Easement Program.
Working Lands Conservation Programs
The farm bill contains programs that support working lands conservation to help farmers steward their natural resources. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides farmers and ranchers with technical and financial assistance to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation activities on land in agricultural production. Similarly, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial resources and one-on-one help to farmers and ranchers to plan and implement structural, vegetative, and management practices on agricultural land.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was established in the 2014 farm bill and is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Program provides funding to partnerships of state agencies and non-governmental organizations to help agricultural producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas. The Program works differently than other USDA conservation programs in that the government and non-governmental organization partners submit project proposals, and once a project is selected, farmers and ranchers can then apply to NRCS to participate in the RCPP project. The types of projects can address many different conservation goals, from soil health, to water quality, to wildlife conservation. Maine Farmland Trust received a grant through this Program in 2017 to conserve farmland and marsh habitat in Maine.
Conservation Reserve Program
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides farmers and ranchers with a yearly rental payment to remove environmentally sensitive land from production and plant resource-conserving land cover to protect soil, water, and wildlife habitat. The purpose of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.
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