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After more than 24 years of federal programs to protect farm and ranch land from development, conservation tillage was the top practice initiated by program participants.
The U.S. Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) was a voluntary conservation effort providing matching funds to state and local governments, land trusts and tribes for the purchase of permanent conservation easements to protect agricultural land from industrial and residential development. USDA’s NRCS administered the program from 1996 to 2014. The program was then superseded by the Agricultural Lands Easement function of the 2014 Farm Bill’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Effectiveness Survey. In 2020, American Farmland Trust (AFT) started a multi-year survey project to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs, which required conservation plans for highly erodible lands and certain forested parcels. NRCS invested more than $1.2 billion through FRPP, helping provide protection of 1.1 million acres in partnership with more than 400 other land protection entities across the nation.
AFT’s recently published Analyzing the Lasting Impacts of Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program report indicates high rates of conservation planning and practice adoption among FRPP owners, with 65% of survey respondents identifying as first-generation owners and active farmers or ranchers. Of those respondents, 93% reported adopting at least one conservation practice after entering the programs, and 78% said they had applied at least three.
Top Practices. The most frequently adopted practices include conservation tillage (no-till, reduced tillage and strip-till systems), nutrient management, buffers along streams and field edges, and cover crops.