DOVER, Del., Jan. 19, 2010- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Delaware is extending its sign-up period for two easement programs - the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Interested landowners now have until January 29 to submit their applications to their local USDA Service Center to be considered for funding this fiscal year.
The Grassland Reserve Program helps landowners restore and protect grassland, pastureland, shrubland and certain other lands and provides assistance for rehabilitating grasslands. The program will conserve vulnerable grasslands from conversion to cropland or other uses.
GRP offers producers several enrollment options: permanent easements and rental agreements (for 10, 15 or 20 years). Restoration agreements may be required when the grassland functions and values of the land need to be improved. For permanent easements, USDA makes a payment based on the fair market value of the property less the grazing value not to exceed $7,000.00 per acre. USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office, including recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and title insurance. Landowners voluntarily limit future use of the land, yet retain private ownership. For rental agreements, USDA pays $13.00 per acre in Kent and Sussex counties and $13.50 per acre in New Castle county in annual payments for the length of the agreement. For restoration agreements, USDA pays up to 50 percent of the restoration costs on grassland and shrubland.
The Wetlands Reserve Program provides an opportunity for landowners to receive financial assistance to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property. These wetlands provide food and shelter for migratory birds and other wetland dependent species, including state and federally listed species, and species of concern. In addition to providing benefits to wildlife, WRP helps to reduce flooding, improve water quality by filtering sediment and chemicals, recharge groundwater and more.
WRP offers landowners a combination of permanent and 30-year easements, in addition to 10-year restoration agreements, in exchange for retiring and restoring woodland and marginal land from agriculture. Landowners that enter into a permanent easement may receive up to $2900 per acre for woodland and $4000 per acre for cropland plus the cost of approved wetland restoration practices. For 30-year easements, applicants can receive 75 percent of the permanent easement value. For both permanent and 30-year easements, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement in the local land records office. This includes recording fees, charges for abstracts, survey and title insurance. Landowners voluntarily limit future use of the land, yet retain private ownership.
NRCS will rank and select parcels after the sign-up period ends and funds will be obligated shortly thereafter. Once funding has been exhausted, eligible applicants will remain on file until additional funding becomes available.
To participate in GRP or WRP, land offers must be privately-owned. Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for more information. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3. Or visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.