The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF)

The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) leverages high-resolution geo-spatial data to help local farming communities better address their soil and water conservation needs.

It is a concept for agricultural watershed management supported by high-resolution data and an ArcGIS toolbox, which are used to identify site-specific opportunities to install conservation practices across small watersheds. This non-prescriptive approach provides a menu of conservation options to facilitate conservation discussions on farms and in community halls. The framework is used in conjunction with local knowledge of water and soil resource concerns, landscape features, and producer conservation preferences to provide a better understanding of the options available in developing a watershed conservation plan.

The North Central Region Water Network is a part of the ACPF team and works alongside partners at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa State University, Minnesota Water Resources Center, Purdue University and others to support the ACPF and create ACPF training for conservation planners across the region.

What is the ACPF?

The ACPF is made up of three different components:

  • A framework based on a sequence of conservation priorities from in-field to edge-of-stream practices that, in combination, can improve watershed health
  • Databases of field boundaries, land use, and soil data available for HUC12 watersheds across the upper Midwest
  • A toolbox for use within Esri’s ArcGIS (versions 10.3-10.6 and ArcGIS Pro 2.2) along with the provided databases and high resolution topographic data to generate detailed output maps identifying a broad range of conservation practice opportunities available

The ACPF Framework

The ACPF conceptual framework is based on the conservation pyramid which emphasizes soil conservation as the foundation to agricultural watershed management.

Well-managed soils lose less water to runoff and leaching, which improves production, and enables additional practices to effectively treat losses that occur due to the natural ‘leakiness’ of agricultural lands. These additional practices, which control water flows and trap and treat nutrient losses, can be implemented or stacked in fields, at field edges, and in riparian zones.

The ACPF framework identifies locations where specific landscape attributes are favorable for implementing certain conservation practices and includes methods to help prioritize these locations according to their susceptibility to runoff and erosion.

For more information on the ACPF visit