Agricultural land conservation is a critical issue in today’s world, as the global population continues to grow and the demand for food increases. One innovative approach to addressing this challenge is the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACRE). ACRE provides financial incentives to farmers and landowners to protect their land from development and ensure its long-term use for agricultural purposes. In this article, we will explore the advantages of ACRE and how it is making a positive impact on agricultural land conservation.

What is ACRE?

ACRE is a voluntary program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides financial assistance to farmers and landowners who agree to place a permanent conservation easement on their agricultural land. A conservation easement is a legal agreement that restricts certain uses of the land, such as development or subdivision, while allowing for continued agricultural activities.

The Advantages of ACRE

1. Preserving Agricultural Land

One of the primary advantages of ACRE is its ability to preserve agricultural land. By providing financial incentives to farmers and landowners, ACRE encourages them to keep their land in agricultural use instead of selling it for development. This helps to protect valuable farmland from being lost to urban sprawl or other non-agricultural uses.

For example, in California’s Central Valley, ACRE has played a crucial role in preserving some of the most productive agricultural land in the country. By offering financial assistance to farmers, ACRE has helped to prevent the conversion of farmland into housing developments or industrial sites.

2. Environmental Benefits

ACRE also offers significant environmental benefits. By conserving agricultural land, ACRE helps to protect natural resources such as soil, water, and wildlife habitat. Agricultural land often contains valuable ecosystems that support a wide range of plant and animal species.

Furthermore, by keeping land in agricultural use, ACRE helps to reduce the need for new land to be cleared for farming. This helps to prevent deforestation and the loss of biodiversity that often accompanies land conversion.

3. Economic Support for Farmers

Another advantage of ACRE is its economic support for farmers and landowners. By providing financial assistance, ACRE helps to offset the costs associated with placing a conservation easement on agricultural land. This can include legal fees, surveying costs, and lost development opportunities.

For many farmers, the financial incentives provided by ACRE can make a significant difference in their ability to continue farming. By helping to reduce the financial burden of land conservation, ACRE ensures that farmers can maintain their livelihoods and contribute to the local economy.

Case Study: ACRE in Action

To illustrate the impact of ACRE, let’s consider a case study from Iowa. In 2018, the USDA awarded a grant of $2 million to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to support the implementation of ACRE in the state.

With this funding, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation was able to work with farmers and landowners to protect over 1,000 acres of agricultural land through conservation easements. This not only preserved valuable farmland but also protected critical wildlife habitat and improved water quality in the region.


ACRE is an innovative approach to agricultural land conservation that offers numerous advantages. By preserving agricultural land, ACRE helps to ensure a sustainable food supply, protect natural resources, and support the economic viability of farmers. Through programs like ACRE, we can work towards a future where agricultural land is conserved and protected for generations to come.

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