Kevin Wickey, State Conservationist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced this week a signup period for eligible entities to apply for Fiscal Year 2014 Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP). Eligible State, County and Nonprofit entities should submit their applications by Feb. 14, 2014 to the WV NRCS State Office in Morgantown. Landowner applications must be submitted to their eligible State, County and Nonprofit entity by close of business Jan. 31.\r\n\r\nThe voluntary Farm and Ranchland Protection Program allows farmers to preserve their agricultural land for future generations to use. The program provides matching funds to farmland protection entities to purchase perpetual conservation easements on private farmland, which ensures agricultural use of the land.\r\n\r\nUSDA-NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement. The applying entity matches the USDA-NRCS amount which can include the use of landowner donations. Eligible land includes private land that contains qualifying soils, unique resources and is predominately non-forest agricultural land. The landowner retains ownership and continues to use the land for agricultural purposes, as outlined in the terms of the conservation easement.\r\n\r\nLandowners interested in protecting their land through a Farmland Protection Easement should contact their local NRCS office, County Farmland Protection Board, or the WV Agricultural Land Protection Authority. Contact information for NRCS local offices can be found at www.wv.nrcs.usda.gov. Your local County Farmland Protection Board and the Authority can be contacted through the www.wvfarmlandprotection.org.