The Secretary shall establish and carry out a farmland protection program under which the Secretary shall facilitate and provide funding for the purchase of conservation easements or other interests in eligible land.
The purpose of the program is to protect the agricultural use and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land.
(c) Cost-share assistance
(1) Provision of assistance
The Secretary shall provide cost-share assistance to eligible entities for purchasing a conservation easement or other interest in eligible land.
(2) Federal share
The share of the cost provided by the Secretary for purchasing a conservation easement or other interest in eligible land shall not exceed 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement or other interest in eligible land.
(3) Non-Federal share
(A) Share provided by eligible entity
The eligible entity shall provide a share of the cost of purchasing a conservation easement or other interest in eligible land in an amount that is not less than 25 percent of the acquisition purchase price.
(B) Landowner contribution
As part of the non-Federal share of the cost of purchasing a conservation easement or other interest in eligible land, an eligible entity may include a charitable donation or qualified conservation contribution (as defined by section
170(h) of title
26) from the private landowner from which the conservation easement or other interest in land will be purchased.
(d) Determination of fair market value
Effective on the date of enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, the fair market value of the conservation easement or other interest in eligible land shall be determined on the basis of an appraisal using an industry approved method, selected by the eligible entity and approved by the Secretary.
(e) Bidding down prohibited
If the Secretary determines that 2 or more applications for cost-share assistance are comparable in achieving the purpose of the program, the Secretary shall not assign a higher priority to any 1 of those applications solely on the basis of lesser cost to the program.
(f) Condition on assistance
(1) Conservation plan
Any highly erodible cropland for which a conservation easement or other interest is purchased using cost-share assistance provided under the program shall be subject to a conservation plan that requires, at the option of the Secretary, the conversion of the cropland to less intensive uses.
(2) Contingent right of enforcement
The Secretary shall require the inclusion of a contingent right of enforcement for the Secretary in the terms of a conservation easement or other interest in eligible land that is purchased using cost-share assistance provided under the program.
(g) Agreements with eligible entities
(1) In general
The Secretary shall enter into agreements with eligible entities to stipulate the terms and conditions under which the eligible entity is permitted to use cost-share assistance provided under subsection (c).
(2) Length of agreements
An agreement under this subsection shall be for a term that is—
(A)in the case of an eligible entity certified under the process described in subsection (h), a minimum of five years; and
(B)for all other eligible entities, at least three, but not more than five years.
(3) Substitution of qualified projects
An agreement shall allow, upon mutual agreement of the parties, substitution of qualified projects that are identified at the time of the proposed substitution.
(4) Minimum requirements
An eligible entity shall be authorized to use its own terms and conditions, as approved by the Secretary, for conservation easements and other purchases of interests in land, so long as such terms and conditions—
(A)are consistent with the purposes of the program;
(B)permit effective enforcement of the conservation purposes of such easements or other interests; and
(C)include a limit on the impervious surfaces to be allowed that is consistent with the agricultural activities to be conducted.
(5) Effect of violation
If a violation occurs of a term or condition of an agreement entered into under this subsection—
(A)the agreement shall remain in force; and
(B)the Secretary may require the eligible entity to refund all or part of any payments received by the entity under the program, with interest on the payments as determined appropriate by the Secretary.
(h) Certification of eligible entities
(1) Certification process
The Secretary shall establish a process under which the Secretary may—
(A)directly certify eligible entities that meet established criteria;
(B)enter into long-term agreements with certified entities, as authorized by subsection (g)(2)(A); and
(C)accept proposals for cost-share assistance to certified entities for the purchase of conservation easements or other interests in eligible land throughout the duration of such agreements.
(2) Certification criteria
In order to be certified, an eligible entity shall demonstrate to the Secretary that the entity will maintain, at a minimum, for the duration of the agreement—
(A)a plan for administering easements that is consistent with the purpose of this subpart;
(B)the capacity and resources to monitor and enforce conservation easements or other interests in land; and
(C)policies and procedures to ensure—
(i)the long-term integrity of conservation easements or other interests in eligible land;
(ii)timely completion of acquisitions of easements or other interests in eligible land; and
(iii)timely and complete evaluation and reporting to the Secretary on the use of funds provided by the Secretary under the program.
(3) Review and revision
The Secretary shall conduct a review of eligible entities certified under paragraph (1) every three years to ensure that such entities are meeting the criteria established under paragraph (2).
If the Secretary finds that the certified entity no longer meets the criteria established under paragraph (2), the Secretary may—
(i)allow the certified entity a specified period of time, at a minimum 180 days, in which to take such actions as may be necessary to meet the criteria; and
(ii)revoke the certification of the entity, if after the specified period of time, the certified entity does not meet the criteria established in paragraph (2).
The table below lists the classification updates, since Jan. 3, 2012, for this section. Updates to a broader range of sections may be found at the update page for containing chapter, title, etc.
The most recent Classification Table update that we have noticed was Tuesday, August 13, 2013
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