SPARKS ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR FARM & RANCH LAND PROTECTION
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Commissioner Ron Sparks has announced that the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) will participate in the USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program by providing matching funds of over $500,000 to acquire development rights with conservation easements to keep productive farmland in agricultural usage.
Thousands of acres of Alabama's farmland are being lost each year to urban sprawl and other non-agricultural uses. Through this program, the Alabama Farmland Protection Program will provide funds that will protect prime farmland and family farms. Private landowners seeking the funds will receive assistance from the ADAI in developing proposals for the program. "We have to help farmers keep their land and also to keep the land in their family," said Sparks. "This program will go a long way to help."
A conservation easement is a legal document where the landowner sells the property development rights to the state for perpetuity, or forever. In exchange, the state pays the landowner the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement. The landowner can continue to farm the land, but the land can never be used for non-agricultural uses such as development. The funding comes from the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), and other public and private fund sources, which are then matched with the funding provided by the Alabama Legislature.
To qualify for the program, the land must be at least 50 percent prime farmland and at least 50 percent cropland, pasture, or hayland. Prime farmland is land that is gently sloping to level, and is highly productive. Other considerations for property selection include development risks, archeological and historical sites, remaining agricultural infrastructure, and percent prime farmland.
Applications for this year will be accepted through May 2, 2006. Those applications not selected and those received after the deadline, will be considered for future appropriation. If you are interested in applying for this program, visit the Department of Agriculture and Industries website at www.agi.alabama.gov, or call (334) 240-7221 for more information.