RALEIGH – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services $6.3 million to place conservation easements on farms in the Upper Neuse River Basin. This project was funded through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
“Securing more funding for conservation easements is a critical step in preserving our family farms and the rich agricultural heritage of the Triangle,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “As an area experiencing significant growth, saving our farmland is more important than ever. These easements protect working farms and forests from development and ensure that agriculture remains a viable livelihood for generations to come.”
RCPP is a partner-driven program that leverages resources to advance innovative projects that address climate change, enhance water quality and address other critical challenges on agricultural land.
“Our partners are experts in their fields and understand the challenges in their own backyards,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Through RCPP, we can tap into that knowledge, in partnership with producers and USDA, to come up with lasting solutions to the challenges that farmers, ranchers and landowners face. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of a public-private partnership at its best, made possible through these RCPP investments.”
An agricultural conservation easement is a legal tool that restricts the residential, commercial and industrial development of land to maintain its agricultural production capability. The Preserving Upriver Farms to Reduce Flooding in N.C. proposal is a phased project to reduce the negative impacts of soil erosion and runoff in the river basins in the Piedmont and Sandhills. In the past several years, hurricanes, tropical storms, and significant rain events in the state have caused catastrophic flooding events in eastern North Carolina. Several factors are linked to these flooding events, including increased residential and commercial development runoff.
Funding priority will be given to working areas that face the greatest threat to development and the best opportunity for runoff mitigation. This proposal will focus on parcels within the Neuse River Basin from the headwaters in Orange and Person counties to Interstate 95 in Johnston and Wilson counties. The counties in this targeted region include Durham, Franklin, Granville, Johnston, Nash, Orange, Wake, and Wilson.
Landowners interested in preserving their farms through conservation easements in the eligible region must work with county governments or land trusts to apply for grant funds. If awarded a grant in which the application requests funds for the conservation easement purchase value, landowners will be compensated for the purchase of the development rights.
Applications for state funding opened on Oct. 9, and farmers have until Dec. 18 to apply. In addition to the state application, applications must be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Services. Grant applications, rules, and information packets are available online at www.ncadfp.org/Cycle17.htm. For more information, call the Farmland Preservation office at 919-707-3074.