The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, known as ACEP. 

The rule is considered USDA’s premier conservation easement program, helping landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. 

The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect on publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill. 

NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr says the changes to the program “make it stronger and more effective and will result in even better protection of our nation’s farmlands, grasslands and wetlands.” 

Changes to ACEP for agricultural land easements include USDA authorizing assistance to partners who pursue “Buy-Protect-Sell” transactions. 

Additionally, the new rule requires a conservation plan for highly erodible land that will be protected by an agricultural land easement. 

Changes to wetland reserve easements will identify water quality as a program purpose for enrollment of wetland reserve easements and expand wetland types eligible for restoration and management under wetland reserve easements.