The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 12, 2013

Program helps keep land in agriculture production


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) is a voluntary conservation program that helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture.

The program provides funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farmland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) joins state, tribal or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements. The NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market easement value.

Urban sprawl continues to threaten the nation’s farm and ranch land, said Tom Lucas, NRCS public affairs officer in Stillwater. Social and economic changes over the past three decades also have influenced the rate at which land is converted to non-agricultural uses. Population growth, demographic changes, preferences for larger lots, expansion of transportation systems and economic prosperity have contributed to increases in agricultural land conversion rates.

The amount of farm and ranch land lost to development and the quality of farmland being converted are significant concerns, Lucas said. In most states, prime farmland is being converted at two to four times the rate of other, less-productive agricultural land. There continues to be an important national interest in the protection of farm and ranch land, Lucas said.

FRPP, administered by the NRCS, is accepting applications for funding on a continuous basis. The 2008 farm bill provided for a continuous signup to allow eligible entities more opportunities to sign up eligible parcels. Landowners must meet the adjusted gross income (AGI) provisions of the 2008 farm bill.

Eligible land includes privately owned farm and ranch land that contains prime, unique, statewide or locally important farmland; contains historical or archeological resources; or furthers a state or local policy and is subject to a pending offer by an eligible entity.

An eligible entity means federally recognized Indian tribes, state, unit of local government or a nongovernmental organization that has an ongoing farmland protection program of purchasing agricultural conservation easements for the purpose of protecting agriculture use and related conservation values by limiting conversion to nonagricultural uses of the land.

The first proposal and parcel evaluation period for 2013 funding will occur after Feb. 15. Only proposals received in the state office by close of business Feb. 15 will be considered in the initial evaluation and funding period.

For information, call Joy Martin, resource conservationist at (405) 742-1234 or by email at joy.martin@ok.usda.gov.

Proposals will be submitted to Dick Zetterberg Acting State Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 100 USDA, Suite 206, Stillwater, OK 74074-2655.