American Farmland Trust (AFT) worked in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to compare a suite of critical conservation benefits provided by agricultural land easements. The research examined farmland and ranchland enrolled in programs administered by the USDA NRCS, including the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and Regional Conservation Partnership Program, along with two predecessor programs, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program. AFT evaluated agricultural land easements in the contiguous U.S. for which boundary data could be acquired, assessing 5,488 easements in 763 counties—roughly 89% of NRCS easements in the programs considered. This fact sheet summarizes the results of the analyses.
The findings show that the lands protected by these federal farmland protection programs are of higher quality for agricultural production, are likely to store more carbon in their soils, and are in areas of higher biodiversity value than agricultural lands not under easement in the same counties.