Partnerships are an extremely important part of the way the Rural and Critical Program works to meet its goals and stretch dollars farther. One of the Program’s most important partnerships has been with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS is an agency that provides technical and financial assistance to non-profits, governmental agencies, and private landowners. Funding for outreach, cost-share programs, and conservation easements is provided through the Farm Bill.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), formerly the Farm and Ranchland Protection program (FRPP), conserves agricultural and working forest lands by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land. Most of the land protected in Beaufort County through agricultural easements with NRCS is on St. Helena Island, one of the last remaining rural and agricultural sea islands.
Agriculture is a major part of the local economy on St. Helena. By preventing the conversion and subdivision of large farms, smaller landowners are also protected from incompatible adjacent land use or tax increases. Over 1,600 acres of farmland have been protected in partnership with NRCS, with the agency contributing over $6.1 million dollars to match Rural and Critical dollars to purchase easements. Just a few of the easements protected through the program with NRCS include Sanders Farm, Henry Farm, Orange Grove, King Farm, and two easements with historic Penn Center.