Northeast Agriculture Commissioners Focus on USDA Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

Farmland protection was on the agenda of the recent summer meeting of the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA).

Commissioners and Secretaries of Agriculture from around the Northeast had a number of questions and comments about the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for Kim Berns, Director of the Easement Programs Division at USDA-NRCS. While commending USDA for some additional flexibility afforded state farmland protection programs through the Interim Final Rule, state agriculture officials voiced continued concerns over aspects of ACEP, including easement terms and conditions, the length of time involved in closing projects, and the level of funding for Agricultural Lands Easements.

Cris Coffin, AFT New England Director, was at the NEASDA meeting. "There is clearly still work to be done to improve program implementation," Coffin said. "We are pleased that NRCS is listening, and are optimistic that they will address many of these issues in the final rule."