Tennessee Grassland Reserve Program
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The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) administered by the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), is accepting applications for funding on a continuous basis. The purpose of GRP is to assist landowners in protecting grazing lands by conserving grassland resources on eligible private lands. Applications will be taken on Form AD-1153 by either FSA or NRCS. Applicants have two types of enrollment options: easement or rental contract. Easements will be given priority this year in Tennessee due to the reduction in funds available. Easements will be for a permanent duration whereas rental contracts will be for 10, 15, or 20 year lengths. Landowners must submit applications on or before March 30, 2012 to receive consideration for funding in fiscal year 2012.
Eligible lands include:
Grassland for which grazing is the predominant use, or
CRP acreage that is within one year of the scheduled expiration date (eligible for both the easement and rental contract enrollment option).
Ineligible lands include:
Land under an active Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) contract, (Grassland Reserve Program, Departmental Manual 9500-012, Chapter 3, Section 12, Part F)
Publicly –owned lands and subsidiaries of publicly owned lands
For easement applications, participants must be the legal owners of a proposed easement area and meet Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions of the Food Security Act, and AGI requirements set forth by the USDA. GRP funding is limited for easement purchases. It is expected there will only be enough funds for 1-2 easement contracts. As a result, easement applications will be screened (see attached 2012 GRP Easement Application Screening Worksheet) prior to ranking to reduce field office workload. Only HIGH priority applications will be ranked. MEDIUM priority applications will only be ranked if funds are available.
Geographic Area Rate Caps were established this year in Tennessee on a county level basis. The GARC rate will not exceed the fair market value and will also include a reduction for the grazing value. Landowner offers less than the appraised value or GARC rate will also be considered for easement compensation.
For rental contracts, participants must own the eligible acreage or have control of the eligible acreage for the life of the rental contract. They also must meet Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions of the Food Security Act and AGI requirements set forth by the USDA. GRP rental rates will come from 2010 since no changes were made by FSA. NRCS personnel should inform landowners of the previous GRP rental rates (see 2010 GRP Rental Rates).
For both easement and rental contracts, a grazing management plan will be needed prior to contracting. The plan will outline guidance on conducting the following activities: common grazing practices, fencing, watering, feeding livestock, haying, or mowing. However, the following activities are prohibited: production of crops (other than hay), fruit trees, vineyards or other agricultural commodities inconsistent with maintaining grazing land, development, mining, and trash dumping (Sewage sludge is not allowed).
The priority of GRP on a state level is to protect grazing lands with significant threats to conversion to non-agricultural uses. Based on 2007 Ag Census and US Census Bureau data, High and Medium Priority counties were identified in Tennessee.
High Priority counties meet both following criteria: Population Growth greater than 10.7% and Farm Land Decrease greater than 23.65%. High Priority counties include Blount, Cheatham, Dickson, Jefferson, Knox, Marshall, Putnam, Rutherford, Sevier, Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.
Medium Priority counties meet one of the following criteria: Population Growth greater than 10.7% or Farm Land Decrease greater than 23.65%. Medium Priority counties include Anderson, Bedford, Bradley, Claiborne, Cocke, Cumberland, Davidson, Greene, Fayette, Hamilton, Hawkins, Hickman, Johnson, Loudon, Macon, Maury, Monroe, Moore, Montgomery, Overton, Pickett, Rhea, Roane, Robertson, Sequatchie, Sumner, Sullivan, Tipton, Trousdale, Unicoi, Wayne, and White.
Individual parcels will be ranked and the highest quality parcels for which TN-NRCS has funding will be selected. Eligible applications will be ranked using two different criteria based on the application type: easement or rental contract. (See attached 2012 GRP Easement Ranking FINAL and 2012 Rental Ranking FINAL). Selection of parcels will take place after the March 30, 2012 application deadline.
If you have questions, please contact Chris Hancock, Resource Conservationist, Program Planning Staff, State Office, 615-277-2597.
Easement Specialist -- GRP Coordinator
Learn more about the Grassland Reserve Program from the national GRP web page.
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