Conservation initiatives announced by USDA

What the United States Agriculture department calls "landmark conservation initiatives" was
recently announced by Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, as part of the 2014 Farm Bill.
The programs will provide up to $386 million to help farmers restore wetlands, protect working
agriculture lands, support outdoor recreation activities, and boost the economy.
Vilsack made the announcement at Kuhn Orchards in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania. The farm’s owners participate
in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program, have worked to
encourage pollinator health through planting practices, and used USDA program support to construct a
high tunnel.
"By protecting working lands and wetlands, we’re able to strengthen agricultural operations, sustain
the nation’s food supply and protect habitat for a variety of wildlife," Vilsack said. "In
addition, we’re providing states and tribal governments a tool to expand access to private lands for
hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities, which helps boost wildlife-related
businesses and grows the economy."
The USDA agency enrolled a record number of acres in conservation programs that have saved millions of
tons of soil, improved water quality, contributed to the national effort to preserve habitat for
wildlife, and protected the most sensitive ecological areas.
USDA has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on these conservation projects
since 2009 – a record number.
In addition to protecting cropland and critical habitats, conservation strengthens outdoor recreation and
helps boost the economy. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, annual United States
conservation spending totals $38.8 billion, but it produces $93.2 billion of economic output throughout
the economy – 2.4 times more than what is put in.
This output takes the form of more than 660,500 jobs, $41.6 billion in income and a $59.7 billion
contribution to national Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.
The new programs announced are the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program and the Voluntary Public
Access and Habitat Incentive Program. Both programs have application deadlines in early June for fiscal
2014 funding.
More information can be obtained at the local USDA service center, the VPA-HIP website, or

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers the two components of ACEP, one for
agricultural land easements and one for wetland reserve easements.
Under the agricultural land component, funds are provided to eligible entities that can use ACEP funding
to purchase agricultural land easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of
eligible land.
Under the wetland reserve component, funding is provided to landowners for the purchase of an easement
and for restoration funds to restore and enhance wetlands, improving habitat for migratory birds and
other wildlife.
Applications for funding consideration in fiscal year 2014 must be submitted by the individual state
deadline or June 6, whichever is earlier.
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. Both programs have application
deadlines later this spring.
Applications for VPA-HIP are due by June 16 and should be completed by state and tribal governments at
For more information, view the notice on or the program’s website.