U.S.D.A. announces $386 million in conservation programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for new conservation initiatives created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The programs will provide up to $386 million to help farmers restore wetlands, protect working agriculture lands, support recreational activities and boost the economy, the agriculture department said.

The agriculture department has enrolled farmers in conservation programs that have saved soil, improved water quality and preserved wildlife habitat. Since 2009, the agriculture department has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on these conservation projects.

The new programs announced Thursday are the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). Applications for ACEP funding consideration in fiscal 2014 must be submitted by the individual state deadline or June 6, whichever is earlier.

Applications and state deadline information can be obtained at a U.S.D.A. Service Center or at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. Applications for VPA-HIP are due by June 16 and should be completed at Grants.gov.

The agriculture department is making available up to $366 million for conservation easements under ACEP to state and local governments, Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and private landowners. ACEP consolidates three former easement programs- the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program – into one to improve efficiency.

VPA-HIP is a competitive grant program that enables state and Tribal governments to increase opportunities for owners and managers of private lands who want to make their land available for public recreation. Up to $20 million is available this year for VPA-HIP.

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