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Real Property

Acquisition of Real Property

It is the policy of ARS to keep the acquisitions of land to a minimum, consistent with the efficient operation and performance of ARS programs.  ARS shall not acquire, by any method, more real property than needed for approved programs.  Before additional land and facilities are acquired, it must be shown that the real property requirements cannot be met from real property under the custody and control of the Government.  Government-owned properties will be surveyed during the site selection process, and documentation of the reasons for the rejection of a Government-owned site shall be made.
Consideration will be given to consolidation of activities with other ARS units, as well as other agricultural offices, wherever practicable.  Maximum use shall be made of existing Government-owned permanent buildings, which are adequately or economically adaptable to ARS’ required space needs.
It is the policy of ARS to acquire the title to lands by direct purchase, through negotiations (not through condemnation) based on the Fair Market Value (FMV) as estimated by appraisal. Also, it is policy that owners, or the persons occupying real property under arrangement with said owners, will not be required to relinquish possession of land without their consent unless payment has been made to the parties in accordance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended.  It is essential that there be adequate planning for all projects to assure that funds are available to owners through purchase, prior to possession of the land being surrendered to the Government.


41 United States Code (USC) 14 provides that no land shall be purchased on account of the United States, except under a law authorizing such purchase.
Pursuant to 7 USC 428a, USDA is authorized to acquire land by purchase, exchange, or otherwise, as may be necessary to carry out its authorized work, provided that no acquisition shall be made unless provision is made in the applicable appropriation or other law.
In the Annual Appropriation Bill, ARS is authorized to acquire land as long as the expenditure for land does not exceed $100.  In addition, under 7 USC 428a, appropriations for USDA which are available for the purchase of land may be expended for options to purchase land: Provided, that not to exceed $1 may be expended for each option to purchase any particular tract or tracts of land unless otherwise provided in the appropriation or other law.


Pursuant to 7 USC 2269, the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) is authorized to accept, receive, hold, utilize, and administer, on behalf of the United States, gifts, bequests, or devises of real and personal property made for the benefit of USDA or for the carrying out of any of its functions, except that donations may not be accepted from an entity with business before the Department. The net proceeds from the liquidation of any property so accepted shall be deposited in the Treasury of the United States for credit to a separate fund and shall be disbursed upon order of the Secretary.


Under 20 USC 191, the Secretary is authorized and directed to establish and maintain the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) for purposes of research and education concerning tree and plant life. The Secretary is authorized to acquire, by private purchase, condemnation proceedings, or gift, land so located or other land within or adjacent to the District of Columbia: Provided that the purchase price of any part of said land shall not exceed the full value assessment of such property last made before purchase thereof plus 25 percent of such assessed value.


Under 7 USC 1292, the Secretary is authorized to acquire land and to accept, in the name of the United States, donations of any property, real or personal, to any regional research laboratory. Donations to any one of such laboratories shall not be available for use by any other such laboratories.


Section 202(a) of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (63 Stat. 384), as amended, authorizes the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide for the transfer of excess real property among Government agencies. Subpart 101-47.203.7 of the Federal Management Regulations, which prescribes policies and procedures relative to the transfer of excess real property, including circumstances under which reimbursement is and is not required, has implemented this authority. Reimbursement is required in all cases except the following: In the case where ARS cannot afford to reimburse another Government agency, a request for making the transfer without reimbursement must go from the Secretary to GSA and be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).


Congress enacted the Pickett Act of June 25, 1910, which expressly authorizes the President to withdraw public lands. Section 1 of this Act provides: "The President may, at any time in his discretion, temporarily withdraw from settlement location, sale, or entry any of the public lands of the United States, including Alaska, and reserve the same for water-power sites, irrigation, classification of lands, or other public purposes to be specified in the orders of withdrawals, and such withdrawals or reservations shall remain in force until revoked by him or by an Act of Congress."
This Act did not negate the previously exercised inherent power to withdraw public lands, but was in addition thereto.   As a result, since that date, Executive Orders (EO) and Public Land Orders withdrawing public lands have done so pursuant to the authority of that Act and the authority otherwise vested in the President.
The President, by E.O. 10355 of May 26, 1952, delegated his authority to withdraw public lands to the Secretary of Interior. Since that date, public lands have been withdrawn by Public Land Orders, rather than by EO as was previously the case. Under this Order, all of the authority vested in the President to withdraw and reserve lands in the public domain and to modify or revoke existing withdrawals and reservations was delegated to the Secretary of the Interior. It provides, however, that any disagreement between two or more executive departments or agencies with respect to any proposed withdrawal or reservation shall be referred to the Director, OMB, for consideration and adjustment, and that the Director may, in his discretion, submit the matter to the President for determination.


Under 7 Code of Federal Regulations 2.76(a)(iv), the USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration has delegated the authority to acquire land to the USDA Director, Office of Procurement and Property Management (OPPM).
Under Part 104-18.5004(b) of the Agriculture Property Management Regulations, the Administrator, ARS, has been delegated the authority to acquire real property by purchase, donation, exchange, and otherwise, and to acquire options to purchase real property.  FD is charged with handling these functions under Directive 241.2, the ARS Real Estate Warrant Program.


The Director, FD, is responsible for developing and recommending policies and procedures to insure a uniform and effective real property management program in conformity with Federal laws and regulations relating to the acquisition of land, buildings, and facilities throughout ARS.
The FD, Real Property Management Branch (RPMB) is responsible for the oversight and direction of all land acquisitions by purchase, donation or exchange. RPMB represents ARS in negotiating purchase price and purchase agreement stipulations, land exchange agreements, conditions for the donation of land and determines the appraised Fair Market Value (FMV) of property to be acquired.


The following steps will be taken to affect the acquisition of real property:

  1. After coordination with the Budget and Program Management Staff, the Area receives written authority from Congress to proceed.
  2. The Area Director requests, via written memorandum, assistance from FD.  The memo should include:
    • a. Location and Area approval of the project.
    • b. A statement that there is no existing federally-owned land available for the project.
    • c. A description of the proposed use of the parcel.
    • d. The approximate acreage required.
    • e. A description of alternate sites considered.
    • f. A list of any ARS improvements that may be installed on the site.
      • The estimated cost of the land.
      • An indication of the landowner’s willingness to sell.
      • Will the Area Office fund the purchase? If not , who will?
  3. Upon receipt of the request for acquisition, FD solicits the concurrence of the National Program Staff and the approval of the ARS Administrator. 
  4. RPMB arranges a meeting (teleconference) of all concerned ARS parties.  Discussions topics will include:
    • Has specific site/parcel been determined?
    • Has landowner been contacted?  Is there an interest to sell?  Are there any special conditions to the sale?
    • Are funds available for the purchase, maintenance, title, survey work, and Environmental Site Assessment, etc.?
    • Utilities on site?  Will any easements for utilities or access be needed?
  5. Approval of the Assistant Secretary for Administration will be solicited prior to starting any action, except appraisal, or making any public announcement in connection with the purchase, acceptance of donation, or exchange of real property having a total estimated FMV in excess of $25,000 or if the site contains a completed building having an estimated cost of at least $250,000 (see the section in this Chapter entitled “Secretarial Approval Required”).


Last Updated: 07/29/2014