Applicants for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have until May 1 to apply in Arizona, and June 15 to apply in California.

Eligible entities must be state, tribal, or local units of governments or be non-government organizations that meet specific requirements. These entities must have an established farm and ranch land protection program; the authority to hold and manage easements; the capacity to acquire, manage, and enforce the easements; and necessary funds to match the federal contribution.

The FRPP can provide up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the easement on the farm or ranch. At least 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the easement must be provided by the eligible entity with at least 25 percent in cash.

The eligible entity must secure the appraisal, survey, and title search; prepare the conservation easement deed; and pay for the closing. Landowners may accept less than the appraised fair market value. If they do so the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price accepted is considered a landowner donation.

Land proposed for funding in FRPP must meet one of three eligibility categories: contain at least 50 percent soils of special designation (prime or unique farmland soils and/or soils of statewide or local importance); contain historic or archeological resources; or contain land that supports the farm and ranch land protection policies of state or local programs.

Owners of the parcels must have an adjusted gross income of less than $1 million and be in compliance with the USDA highly erodible land and wetland compliance requirements. The highest-quality parcels will be selected for funding to the extent FRPP resources is available.

For more information, Arizona producers can contact Steve Smarik at (602) 280-8785 or steve.smarik@az.usda.gov. For California producers, contact Roney Gutierrez at (530) 792-5649 or roney.gutierrez@ca.usda.gov.