Summary of Procedures
Summary of Procedures
Berks County Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) Program
This is a summary of the procedures for the easement purchase. Further details can be found in the ACE Program Guidelines.
Please Note: The ACE Program is a legal and financial document. Landowners should consult with their attorney and/or accountant.
Landowners voluntarily submit an application to the ACE Program by December 31st of any given year to be considered for the program the following year. There is no charge to submit an application to the program and there is no commitment to proceed if the application is selected.
Applications are reviewed to ensure that minimum criteria are met.
Applications that meet the minimum criteria are ranked using the LESA Ranking System based on the material submitted by December 31st. The ranking begins in after the application deadline and is typically completed within three to four months. Upon completion of the ranking, applications are selected in the order in which they were ranked, highest to lowest, based on the amount of available funding.
When an application is selected, the landowners are given the option to submit a $500 security deposit to proceed. The security deposit is returned at settlement provided that the landowners convey an agricultural conservation easement.
After the deposit is received, a site visit is conducted to review the property and discuss any conservation planning needs.
- The County Board acquires a title report to ensure the easement purchase is conveyed in clear title and that there are no restrictions inconsistent with the terms of the easement.
An appraisal is prepared for each selected application to determine the value of the agricultural conservation easement. The value of the easement is equal to the difference between the open market value and the agricultural value of the farm.
The County Board reviews each appraisal and authorizes a per acre offer to purchase an agricultural conservation easement. The offer may not exceed but may be less than the appraised value of the easement. The County Board may impose a maximum payment per acre, otherwise referred to as a “cap.” Landowners may contact the office to inquire as to the current cap. The landowners can choose whether to accept the offer.
After the landowners accept an offer, the County Office proceeds with obtains a survey of the property. The ACE Program pays for the survey, except for the expense to survey land withheld from the application at the landowners’ request.
The County Office requests additional documentation, as required, including a conservation plan that meets the requirements.
After determination of final easement acreage through a survey, an Agreement of Sale is executed, which specifies the final easement purchase price (final acreage multiplied by the accepted price per acre) and method of payment. Payment methods include a lump sum payment, Like-Kind Exchange, or installment payments between 2-5 years as determined by the landowners.
A recommendation is submitted to the PA Bureau of Farmland Preservation. The Bureau reviews the application and recommends the application for approval to the State Board.
Settlement for the easement is typically held about four months after State Board approval, once the funds become available. The landowners sign the Deed of Agricultural Conservation Easement and Conservation Plan Agreement and receive financial compensation for conveying the easement. The Deed of Agricultural Conservation Easement and Conservation Plan Agreement are recorded at the Berks County Recorder of Deeds Office. The Deed of Easement must then be attached to and recorded with any subsequent property deed.
Farm inspections are performed at least biennially to ensure compliance with the easement.