NB_300_22_30 - NB 300-22-30 LTP- Announcing the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity-Held Easement Policy
NB 300-22-30 LTP- Announcing the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity-Held Easement Policy
National Bulletin: 300-22-30 
Date: April 22, 2022 
Subject: LTP- Announcing the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Entity-Held Easement Policy


 
Purpose.   To announce the publication of the new policy for entity-held easements and provide an overview of the policy guidance.  
 
Expiration Date.   September 30, 2022 
 
Background.   Title 440 Conservation Program Manual (CPM), Part 531 Regional Conservation Partnership Program Manual (RCPP Manual) was published in February 2022 and provides policy and procedures to implement the RCPP program under the 2018 Farm Bill. At the time of its publication, policy for the implementation of entity-held easements was still under development. Subpart K of the RCPP Manual “Entity-Held Easements – Overview, Eligibility, Application, Selection and Agreements” and Subpart L of the RCPP Manual “Entity-Held Easements – Valuation, Deed Review, Title Clearance, Closing and Post-Closing Procedures” have now been published and provide guidance for the full implementation of RCPP entity-held easements under the 2018 Farm Bill. This bulletin announces the publication of 440-CPM-531-subparts K and L and an overview of the policy. 
 
Explanation.   Recently published 440-CPM-531 subparts K and L provide guidance for the implementation of RCPP entity-held easements under the 2018 Farm Bill. Specifically, 440-CPM-531 subpart K covers the following:

·       Overview of RCPP entity-held easements, including different transaction types

·       Processing applications for RCPP entity-held easements

·       Landowner, entity, and land eligibility

·       Application ranking and selection

·       Federal cost share limitations

·       RCPP program agreements and RCPP parcel contracts

440-CPM-531 subpart L covers the following:

·       Valuation of RCPP entity-held easements

·       RCPP entity-held easement deed requirements and deed reviews

·       RCPP easement plan requirements

·       Easement closing and payment procedures

·       Easement monitoring, enforcement, and administration actions

As appropriate, 440-CPM-531 subparts K and L reference NRCS easement policy in 440-CPM-parts 527 (Easement Common Provisions manual) and 528 (Agricultural Conservation Easement Program manual). References to 440-CPM-part 527 includes references to 440-CPM-527 subparts H and I, both of which are currently reserved and awaiting publication. While it is anticipated that 440-CPM-527 subparts H and I will be published very soon, the following guidance will allow states to implement RCPP entity-held easements in the interim.

440-CPM-527 subpart H will provide guidance regarding environmental due diligence, access requirements, and title due diligence and review. Until the publication of 440-CPM-527 subpart H, States must supplement published guidance with guidance in 440-CPM-528 as follows:

·     Title requirements for the acquisition of an Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Agricultural Land Easement (ACEP-ALE) set forth in 440-CPM-528.62, including the review of ownership documents, review of title and final title policy requirements, must be followed for all RCPP entity-held easement acquisitions.

·     Environmental due diligence requirements, including on-site inspections and the limited phase-1 environmental site assessment, must be completed in accordance with 440-CPM-528-34B(5) for all RCPP entity-held easement acquisitions using the forms and worksheets published in 440-CPM-528.

·     The following forms and worksheets referenced in 440-CPM-528 may be used for RCPP entity held easements until updated forms and policy are published in 440-CPM-527 subpart H.

 

o    440-CPM-528.203A “Landowner Disclosure Worksheet”

o    440-CPM-528.204A “Hazardous Materials Field Inspection Checklist”

o    440-CPM-528.204B “Hazardous Materials Landowner Interview”

o    Form NRCS-LTP-27 “Preliminary Certificate of Inspection and Possession”

o    Form NRCS-LTP-23 “Certificate of Use and Consent”

o    440-CPM-528.207A “NRCS closing agent requirements”

440-CPM-527 subpart I will provide guidance regarding entering into program agreements and parcel contracts for RCPP entity-held easements, modifying parcel contracts, and payment and closing procedures for RCPP entity-held easements. Until the publication of 440-CPM-527 subpart I, States must supplement published guidance as follows:

·     National Bulletin (NB) 300-21-49 provides guidance on accepting applications and entering into program agreements for RCPP entity-held easements.  To the extent that 440-CPM-531 subpart K does not provide specific guidance regarding accepting applications and entering into program agreements, states should continue to follow the guidance in NB 300-21-49.

·     National Instruction (NI) 300-306 provides guidance on ACEP-ALE program agreements and parcel contracts.  To the extent that 440-CPM-531-subpart K and NB 300-21-49 do not provide specific guidance regarding entering into parcel contracts, modifying parcel contracts, or payment and closing procedures for RCPP entity-held easements, states should apply the ACEP-ALE guidance in NI 300-306 to RCPP entity-held easements, replacing the reference ACEP-ALE program agreement forms with the published RCPP program agreement and parcel contract forms.

·     EPD approval must be obtained prior to entering into new program agreements for RCPP entity-held easement and prior to modifying existing program agreements. States may request this EPD approval by emailing the required documentation to NRCS.Program.Agreements@usda.gov.

States should contact the Easement Policy Branch at EasementSupport@usda.gov to the extent that questions arise in supplementing RCPP entity-held easement policy with ACEP-ALE policy as described in this bulletin. 

 
Contact.   Questions regarding this bulletin can be directed to Tim Aaron, EPD Reality Specialist at tim.aaron@usda.gov and to the Easement Policy Branch inbox at EasementSupport@usda.gov
 
 

 /s/

  CLINT EVANS  
  Acting Deputy Chief for Programs 

 
 
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