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e-CFR data is current as of February 25, 2021

Title 7Subtitle BChapter XIVSubchapter CPart 1491Subpart A → §1491.6

Title 7: Agriculture
Subpart A—General Provisions

§1491.6   Ranking considerations and proposal selection.

(a) Before the State Conservationist can score and rank the parcels for funding, the eligibility of the landowner and the land must be assessed.

(b) The State Conservationist will use national and State criteria to score and rank parcels. The national ranking criteria will be established by the Chief, and the State criteria will be determined by the State Conservationist, with advice from the State Technical Committee. The national criteria will comprise at least half of the ranking system score.

(c) At least 30 days before the ranking of parcels, the State Conservationist will announce the date on which ranking of parcels will occur. A State Conservationist may announce more than one date of ranking in a fiscal year.

(d) All parcels submitted throughout the fiscal year will be scored. All parcels will be ranked together in accordance with the national and State ranking criteria before parcels are selected for funding.

(e) The parcels selected for funding will be listed on the agreements of the entities that submitted the parcels, and the agreements will be signed by the State Conservationist and the eligible entity. Funds for each fiscal year's parcels will be obligated with a new signature each year on an amendment to the agreement. Parcels funded on each fiscal year's amendment will have a separate deadline for closing and requesting reimbursement.

(f) The national ranking criteria are:

(1) Percent of prime, unique, and important farmland in the parcel to be protected;

(2) Percent of cropland, pastureland, grassland, and rangeland in the parcel to be protected;

(3) Ratio of the total acres of land in the parcel to be protected to average farm size in the county according to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture;

(4) Decrease in the percentage of acreage of farm and ranch land in the county in which the parcel is located between the last two USDA Censuses of Agriculture;

(5) Percent population growth in the county as documented by the United States Census;

(6) Population density (population per square mile) as documented by the most recent United States Census;

(7) Proximity of the parcel to other protected land, such as military installations, land owned in fee title by the United States or an Indian Tribe, State government or local government, or by a nongovernmental organization whose purpose is to protect agricultural use and related conservation values, or land that is already subject to an easement or deed restriction that limits the conversion of the land to non-agricultural use;

(8) Proximity of the parcel to other agricultural operations and infrastructure; and

(9) Other additional criteria as determined by the Chief.

(g) State or local criteria as determined by the State Conservationist, with advice of the State Technical Committee, may include:

(1) The location of a parcel in an area zoned for agricultural use;

(2) The performance of an eligible entity's experience in managing and enforcing easements. Performance must be measured by the closing efficiency or percentage of parcels that have been monitored and the percentage of monitoring results that have been reported. The number of years of an eligible entity's existence, budget, or staffing level will not be used as a ranking factor;

(3) Multifunctional benefits of farm and ranch land protection including social, economic, historical and archaeological, and environmental benefits;

(4) Geographic regions where the enrollment of particular lands may help achieve national, State, and regional conservation goals and objectives, or enhance existing government or private conservation projects;

(5) Diversity of natural resources to be protected;

(6) Score in the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment system. This score serves as a measure of agricultural viability (access to markets and infrastructure); and

(7) Existence of a farm or ranch succession plan or similar plan established to encourage farm viability for future generations.

(h) State ranking criteria will be developed on a State-by-State basis. The State Conservationist will make available a full listing of applicable national and State ranking criteria.

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