NB_300_21_12 - NB 300-21-12 LTP - FY 2021 Procedures for Funds Reservations and Fund Obligations for Specific Easement or Water Bank Financial Transaction Types
NB 300-21-12 LTP - FY 2021 Procedures for Funds Reservations and Fund Obligations for Specific Easement or Water Bank Financial Transaction Types
National Bulletin: 300-21-12 Date: December 18, 2020
Subject: LTP - Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Procedures for Funds Reservations and Fund Obligations for Specific Easement or Water Bank Financial Transaction Types


 
Purpose.  To provide States and the Easement Acquisitions Branch (EAB) the FY 2021 procedures for obtaining a unique work breakdown structure (WBS) element when needed for the identified easement programs and Water Bank Program (WBP) and processing funds reservations and obligations, including the preliminary obligations of acquisition-related costs and restoration costs using the enrollment agreement supplement.   
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2021
 
Background.  States and EAB are required to use a unique WBS element for the purpose of reconciling data and reporting on total costs for easement enrollments that are administered and tracked across different business tools. Unique WBS elements are critical to ensuring NRCS can accurately “tie out” transactions on high dollar agreements and contracts.

With the exception of Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE), States and EAB are required to set aside the estimated amount of the easement cost, 30-year acquisition cost, or water bank contract costs in a funds reservation in the Financial Management Modernization Initiative (FMMI). The funds reservation is made prior to the execution of the enrollment agreement or contract and before the associated obligation of funds for such agreement or contract is made in FMMI. In order to create a funds reservation or an obligation in FMMI for the programs and enrollment types identified in this bulletin, the information must be directly entered manually because there is currently no business tool that “feeds” easement or WBP information from National Easement Staging Tool (NEST) to FMMI.

Prior to FY 2020, the procedures for the direct entry of funds reservations and obligations in FMMI required the States and EAB to submit three requests for each transaction and required the Farm Production And Conservation Business Center (FBC) staff to complete a corresponding action for each request. In FY 2020, the bulk upload process was introduced to streamline the submission workflow and reduce the need for multiple entry of the same data in different systems, thus reducing risk from data entry errors. The bulk upload process developed by the Easement Programs Division (EPD) and FBC created efficiencies for States, EAB, and FBC by significantly decreasing the number of individual requests that must be submitted by States and EAB for FMMI transactions. This bulk upload process will continue for the identified programs and transaction types through FY 2021.

Additionally, restoration costs and acquisition-related costs (such as appraisal technical reviews, title commitments, and environmental database records searches) require fund obligations in other disconnected systems. To ensure all funds necessary to support the acquisition and restoration of an individual easement or 30-year contract are obligated in the same fiscal year that the initial enrollment agreement or contract is executed, a supplement to the enrollment agreement has been used since 2016 for the preliminary obligation of ACEP-WRE restoration costs and since 2020 for the preliminary obligation of restoration costs and acquisition-related costs for ACEP-WRE, EWPP-FPE, and HFRP.

Through the bulk upload process and use of the enrollment agreement supplement, States and EAB can create preliminary fund obligations for planned restoration and acquisition-related costs at the same time that the easement or 30-year contract acquisition costs as identified on the enrollment agreement itself are obligated.
 

Explanation.  States must follow the procedures provided in this bulletin for the following programs as applicable:

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) including Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) and Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE) - including the conversion of 30-year easements to permanent easements
  • EWPP-FPE
  • Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP), including 10-year restoration agreements
  • Water Bank Program (WBP)
  • RCPP covered Agreements for ACEP-ALE, ACEP-WRE, and HFRP funded through 2014 Farm Bill RCPP Agreements.

This guidance does not apply to easement enrollments under 2018 Farm Bill RCPP agreements.

There are three major parts to this guidance that describe the process for States and EAB to:

1.  Request unique WBS elements for ACEP-WRE, ACEP-ALE, and HFRP (non-RCPP).

2.  Create enrollment funds reservations and obligations for ACEP-WRE, ACEP-ALE (if approved by national program manager), HFRP, WBP and EWPP-FPE.

3.  Create preliminary obligation of easement acquisition-related and restoration costs with the enrollment agreement Supplement for ACEP-WRE, EWPP-FPE, and HFRP.

All three parts of this guidance are explained in detail in Attachment B.

Unique WBS Elements:

States will use the table in Attachment A for creating unique WBS elements. Additional detail on the steps to obtain a unique WBS element are contained in Attachment B.

ACEP-ALE Program Agreements (not covered by a 2014 RCPP project): For due diligence funds associated with individual Parcels, States and EAB must request a unique WBS element for each parcel using the last four digits of the ProTracts parcel contract application number as the unique identifier.

ACEP-ALE Cooperative or Grant Agreements: States must contact the national program manager for further guidance.

EWPP-FPE: States and EAB administering EWPP-FPE do not need to request unique WBS elements since the creation of the unique WBS element automatically occurs during the existing EPD application review and approval process.

WBP will not require a unique WBS element in FY2021.

For ACEP-WRE, and HFRP (non-RCPP): States and EAB must request a unique WBS element in order to obligate funds for easement acquisition, acquisition-related costs (e.g. appraisals, title commitments, and environmental database searches), and restoration costs. The unique WBS element must be created prior to tentatively selecting an agreement for funding and creating a funds reservation. The last four digits of the NEST application number will serve as the unique identifier in the WBS element.

2014 Farm Bill RCPP covered enrollments: States must use the unique WBS element associated with the RCPP project for funds that are obligated or reserved for acquisition, acquisition-related costs (e.g. environmental database records search or appraisal technical reviews), and restoration costs. After the State or EAB requests a funds reservation, the bulk upload team will look-up the WBS element for the project based on the RCPP project number entered by the State into NEST.

Funds Reservation and Obligation:

Because NEST and FMMI are not integrated, all easement and WBP transactions still require direct entry into FMMI in FY 2021, except for ACEP-ALE Program Agreement Parcel Contract transactions which will be processed via ProTracts and are not considered direct entry transactions. All direct entry FMMI transactions, except ACEP-ALE Cooperative or Grant Agreements, have been streamlined using the FMMI bulk upload functionality. The bulk upload process allows EPD staff to pull a report from NEST, enter the data into a template that is then bulk uploaded into FMMI by FBC staff, thus creating multiple funds reservations or obligations at once. Due to the variety of methods used in FY 2021 to complete financial transactions, a matrix of the transaction types and method of completion has been created as a reference for States and EAB (Attachment C).

For ACEP-ALE Cooperative and Grant Agreements please contact the national program manager.

For ACEP-WRE, HFRP, and WBP: The bulk upload funds reservation and obligation process relies upon data populated by States and EAB in NEST, therefore it is critical that NEST data is accurate and entered in a timely manner. All NEST data entry remains the same as in years past for these programs. Failure to enter accurate NEST data in a timely manner will result in no funds reservation and may jeopardize States’ ability to execute enrollment agreements and successfully obligate funds prior to end of the fiscal year. There will be separate NEST reports pulled and bulk uploads created for funds reservations and fund obligations.

For EWPP-FPE: Due to the streamlined EPD approval and fund allocation process for EWPP-FPE enrollments, funds reservations will not be completed, rather just an obligation. EPD staff will populate NEST funds reservation data for the State after the EPD enrollment approval letter has been loaded to the Documents page in NEST indicating funds have been allocated to the approved project. States will receive notice to obtain signatures on obligating documents and then proceed to enter data in NEST for the obligation as in years past. The bulk upload team will process the obligation once the State enters the “enrollment funds to commit” amount and affixes an eSignature.

As a reminder, it is the Allowance Holder’s responsibility to ensure that accurate and complete documentation of the financial transaction is maintained in the official files. Preobligation reviews in FY 2021 must be conducted in accordance with the most current Easement Internal Controls (IC) guidance.

Preliminary obligations of easement acquisition-related and restoration costs:

For FY 2021, ACEP-WRE and HFRP States must use the “Supplement to the Enrollment Agreement for the Preliminary Obligation of Acquisition-Related and Restoration Costs” provided as Attachment D to this bulletin to obligate any acquisition-related costs and restoration costs that will not otherwise be obligated in FY 2021 (e.g. legal boundary surveys). For EWPP-FPE enrollments in FY 2021 use of the Supplement is optional but strongly encouraged.

The basis for the preliminary obligation will be the Conservation Schedule of Operations (NRCS-CPA-1155/AD-1155) generated from Conservation Desktop. Estimated costs for boundary surveys should be based on an Independent Government Cost Estimate. Sufficient documentation must be retained in the official easement case file and uploaded to NEST to support the calculations used to determine the cost estimates identified on the supplement. The supplement must only be executed by the NRCS authorized official after funds availability has been verified and documented on the supplement by the authorized local financial staff and after the enrollment agreement document has been executed by NRCS. For States serviced by EAB, there are specific instructions for completion within the Supplement itself.

Adjustments to the preliminary obligations will be done using an Amendment to the Supplement, both the Amendment and guidance were issued in National Bulletin 300-21-5. States will adjust the preliminary obligation as they are ready to obligate final amounts for due diligence, acquisition related costs, and restoration.

 
Contact.  If you have questions or concerns, contact the appropriate National Program Manager or Easementsupport@usda.gov.
 
 


 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs

      

 

Attachment A.  FY 2021 WBS Elements for Easement Programs (non-RCPP funded)
Attachment B.  FY 2021 Procedures for Creating Unique WBS Elements, Funds Reservations, and Fund Obligations for Specific Easement or Water Bank Program Transaction Types
Attachment C.  FY 2021 Easement and Water Bank Program Matrix of Transaction (Reservation and Obligation) Methods
Attachment D.  Supplement to the Enrollment Agreement for the Preliminary Obligation of Acquisition-Related and Restoration Costs (Enrollment Agreement Supplement) (ACEP-WRE, HFRP and EWPP-FPE only)

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