USDA Offers Grassland Reserve Program Sign-up

USDA Offers Grassland Reserve Program Sign-up

May 8, 2009

Nebraska landowners wanting to maintain grazing land in grass, including range and pasture land, can apply for funds from USDA's Grassland Reserve Program. Applications can be made at any USDA Service Center by July 1.
USDA Grassland Reserve Program information and applications are available at any USDA Service Center.

Nebraska information on the NRCS Web site includes a list of reserve practices and a ranking worksheet.

“Applying for the Grassland Reserve Program (GFP) is continuous; however, ranking dates are established to evaluate and select applications for funding,” said Steve Chick, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The program is implemented jointly by the NRCS and the USDA Farm Service Agency. Landowners can start their applications at either USDA office. Nebraska has $1 million in GRP funds available with no minimum or maximum acre limit.

Contract Options. The program's goal is to protect and/or restore existing grasslands for working grazing operations and enhancement of plant and wildlife diversity. Landowners maintain ownership and can sign a minimum 10-year rental agreement or a 15- or 20-year rental agreement, or a permanent conservation easement which will perpetually keep the land in grass.

Rental Rates. FSA establishes rental rates for all counties at 75% of the grazing value. Easements are a one time payment with the amount determined by the lowest of either an appraisal, area market survey, geographic rate cap established by USDA, or a landowner’s offer. All easement calculations will deduct for grazing value of the land. Participation will require a grazing management plan for the land.

Entrollment Priorities and Limits. Priority enrollment in GRP is being given to land previously in the Conservation Reserve Program if there is a significant threat of conversion to uses other than grazing. In any year only 10% of the GRP can come from expiring CRP acres. Producers can enroll in GRP up to 12 months before their CRP contract expires. Priority enrollment is limited to the easement or 20-year rental contract.

USDA has set a $50,000 annual payment cap per person or legal entity for rental contracts. Land needing restoration will receive 50% cost-share with the same $50,000 payment limit.

2009 Farm Bill Extends Program. This program has not been offered since 2005 when acreage limits were reached. The 2008 Farm Bill has authorized another 1.2 million acres to be enrolled through 2012. “Based on previous years, we expect a lot of applicants for the funds,” said Chick.

NRCS News Release, May 8