16 U.S. Code § 3865b - Agricultural land easements
(a) Availability of assistance
The Secretary shall facilitate and provide funding for—
(b) Cost-share assistance
(1) In general
The Secretary shall protect the agricultural use, including grazing, and related conservation values of eligible land through cost-share assistance to eligible entities for purchasing agricultural land easements.
(2) Scope of assistance available
(A) Federal share
An agreement described in paragraph (4) shall provide for a Federal share determined by the Secretary of an amount not to exceed 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement, as determined by the Secretary using—
(B) Non-federal share
(i) In general Under the agreement, the eligible entity shall provide a share that is at least equivalent to that provided by the Secretary.
(ii) Source of contribution An eligible entity may include as part of its share under clause (i) a charitable donation or qualified conservation contribution (as defined by section 170 (h) of title 26) from the private landowner if the eligible entity contributes its own cash resources in an amount that is at least 50 percent of the amount contributed by the Secretary.
(i) Grasslands In the case of grassland of special environmental significance, as determined by the Secretary, the Secretary may provide an amount not to exceed 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
(ii) Cash contribution For purposes of subparagraph (B)(ii), the Secretary may waive any portion of the eligible entity cash contribution requirement for projects of special significance, subject to an increase in the private landowner donation that is equal to the amount of the waiver, if the donation is voluntary and the property is in active agricultural production.
(3) Evaluation and ranking of applications
The Secretary shall establish evaluation and ranking criteria to maximize the benefit of Federal investment under the program.
In establishing the criteria, the Secretary shall emphasize support for—
(4) Agreements with eligible entities
(A) 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 this section.
(B) Length of agreements
An agreement shall be for a term that is—
(i) in the case of an eligible entity certified under the process described in paragraph (5), a minimum of five years; and
(C) Minimum terms and conditions
An eligible entity shall be authorized to use its own terms and conditions for agricultural land easements so long as the Secretary determines such terms and conditions—
(iii) include a right of enforcement for the Secretary, that may be used only if the terms of the easement are not enforced by the holder of the easement;
(iv) subject the land in which an interest is purchased to an agricultural land easement plan that—
(I) describes the activities which promote the long-term viability of the land to meet the purposes for which the easement was acquired;
(D) 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.
(E) Effect of violation
If a violation occurs of a term or condition of an agreement under this subsection—
(5) Certification of eligible entities
(A) Certification process
The Secretary shall establish a process under which the Secretary may—
(B) 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—
(C) Review and revision
(i) Review The Secretary shall conduct a review of eligible entities certified under subparagraph (A) every three years to ensure that such entities are meeting the criteria established under subparagraph (B).
(ii) Revocation If the Secretary finds that a certified eligible entity no longer meets the criteria established under subparagraph (B), the Secretary may—
(I) allow the certified eligible 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
(c) Method of enrollment
The Secretary shall enroll eligible land under this section through the use of—
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