Sign Up for Grassland Reserve Program
Richmond, VA, February 7, 2013 – Virginia Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications from farmers who wish to protect and improve their grazing lands under the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). “Some farmers may not realize that this program originally authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill has been extended until September 30, 2013 under the Taxpayer Relief Act.” says NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker.
GRP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to support grazing operators for conservation of the nation’s grasslands. With over 2 million acres of grazing lands in Virginia, “enrollment of land in GRP can have a positive economic and environmental impact by preventing the conversion of grassland to other uses, including crop production and urban development,” says Bricker.
Applications will be ranked on a competitive basis. GRP applications received by March 15, 2013 will be evaluated for 2013 GRP funding; applications received after this date will be evaluated for future GRP funding.
GRP offers funding for perpetual easements and 10-, 15- or 20-year rental contracts. With the easements, landowners receive cash payments while retaining ownership of the land. With the rental contracts, landowners receive annual payments in an amount that is not more than 75 percent of the grazing value established by the Farm Service Agency. The rental rate was $10/acre/year for last year’s contracts.
Certain grassland easements or rental contracts may be eligible for cost-share assistance up to 50 percent for the installation of needed conservation practices on GRP acreage. GRP enrollment permits common grazing practices, haying, mowing or harvesting for seed production, subject to certain restrictions. All participants in GRP are required to implement a grazing management plan approved by NRCS.
Eligible land includes privately-owned grasslands or land located in areas that historically have been dominated by grassland with the potential to serve as a wildlife habitat of significant ecological value or land for which grazing is the predominant use.
During the application process, landowners offer an amount they are willing to accept for the easement. NRCS will use the lower of a market analysis-based geographic area rate cap or the landowner’s offer to determine the payment for the easement. Virginia’s FY13 geographic area rate caps range from $2,500 per acre to $5,000 per acre.
To learn more about GRP, contact your local NRCS office or visit the website at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.