Conservation Easement Purchase Programs in the Senate Farm Bill
Topping $4 billion in conservation program funding annually, the so-called Farm Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the U.S. for domestic conservation work. Among the programs funded by the Farm Bill are the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) that help land trusts purchase conservation easements on working lands. In mid-May, both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House Agriculture Committees passed separate versions of new five year Farm Bills. The bills now head to the full Senate and House floors for debate and a vote. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has been a strong champion of conservation programs in the Farm Bill and, thanks in part to her leadership and engagement on the issue, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill preserved funding for purchasing conservation easements.
New Agriculture Land Easement Program in House and Senate Farm Bills
Included within both the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill is a new Agriculture Land Easement Program (ALEP) that is the result of the consolidation of Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). The Senate version of the ALEP also includes an amendment from Sen. Bennet (D-CO) that would aid private landowners and land trusts in conserving critical wildlife habitat and historically significant farmland. Bennet’s amendment would waive the 50 percent federal cost-share requirement for conservation easements on land deemed of “special significance.” The amendment would also uncap the cost-share match requirement for private land owners- allowing them to contribute more than 25 percent of the cost-share towards the conservation easement. The final fate of the Bennet amendment will be determined in negotiations between the House and Senate during conference committee. If you feel strongly about the ALEP and the Bennet amendment please contact your U.S. Representative and Senators.