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Grassland Reserve Program

The 2014 Farm Bill streamlines and consolidates three former programs, the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Land Protection program into a new program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Although WRP, GRP, and FRPP were repealed in the 2014 Farm Bill, all existing easements remain valid. New sign-up and program information for ACEP will be announced as it becomes available.

cows grazing in Morris CountyThe Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a voluntary program jointly managed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA). The program purpose is to assist owners and operators of private land in protecting grazing uses and the related grassland values such as grassland-dependent plants and animals, soil erosion control, and air or water quality protection.

Applicants must have current crop and producer records on file with the Farm Service Agency. They must own or control the land, agree to maintain the grassland for the contract term, and complete a grazing management plan or conservation plan. Restoration may be required on some properties, based on the site conditions at the time of application.

Applicants may choose between a rental contract of 10-, 15- or 20-years, or a permanent easement. Rental contract holders receive an annual payment (the “rental payment”) and 50% of the cost of any restoration practices. Applicants who agree to sell a conservation easement retain the grazing rights, and receive as compensation for the easement the lesser of the established geographic rate, appraised value less the grassland value, or landowner offer for the easement.

Both rental and easement applicants may also enter into a restoration cost-share agreement if restoration is needed.

For more information on the Grassland Reserve Program, visit the Farm Service Agency's GRP overview page.

What Activities Are Allowed?

Easements and rental contracts allow, consistent with program purposes, the following activities:

  • Soil disturbance activities if they are carried out in a manner consistent with the protection of grazing uses and related conservation values;
  • Common grazing practices, including those related to forage and seed production and routine management activities necessary to maintain  the viability of the forage resources;
  • Haying, mowing, or harvesting for seed production, subject to appropriate nesting season restrictions;
  • Fire pre-suppression activities such as fire breaks and prescribed burning;
  • Grazing related activities, such as fencing and livestock watering facilities;
  • Wind power facilities for on farm use where the location of the facilities has no negative impacts on at-risk or migratory wildlife, and has been approved by NRCS. If the areas disturbed by this activity need to be restored, it will be done at no cost to NRCS.

What Activities Are Not Allowed?

Easements and rental contracts prohibit:

  • The production of crops, fruit trees, vineyards or other agricultural commodities (annually tilled products);
  • Wind power facilities for off-farm power generation;
  • Any other activity inconsistent with maintaining grazing uses and related conservation values.

What is Restoration?

Conservation practices that restore grassland functions and values can be included in a restoration cost-share agreement. These are:

  • Brush Management
  • Upland or Wetland Habitat Management
  • Pasture and Hayland Planting
  • Conservation Cover
  • Grazing land mechanical treatment
  • Prescribed grazing
  • Access Control (fencing of riparian areas)
  • Fencing for new rotational grazing systems
  • Animal walkways for access to pastures, including stream crossings
  • Watering Facilities for livestock
  • Pipeline to support a watering facility

Who Is Eligible to Apply?

To participate in a GRP rental contract, applicants must own or have control of the agricultural land under consideration for the intended contract period. Rental contracts are for a minimum of 10 years, but applicants may also choose a 15-year or a 20-year contract term.

Applicants for GRP easements must own the land under consideration, and demonstrate clear title at the time of application.

What Land Is Eligible?

There is no minimum acreage for enrollment. Portions of farms or entire farms are eligible for both easements and rental contracts.

Land is not eligible for GRP if it is currently enrolled in another USDA Farm Bill conservation program such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) or the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). Land is also ineligible if it is used for mitigation purposes, already under permanent protection, or if it is publically owned.

However, land under any of these or a state Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) contract that is expiring within the next twelve months may apply for GRP and, upon existing contract expiration, be converted to a GRP contract in order to maintain the grasslands developed under the original contract.

What are the Rental Agreement Payments?

An annual rental payment is made per acre enrolled in a rental contract for the life of the contract. Rental rates are set by FSA on an annual basis. Rental payments are subject to a $50,000 per person per year annual payment limitation.

What is a GRP Easement?

A GRP easement is a conservation easement, wherein the United States restricts all land uses except the right to maintain and use the grasslands in perpetuity for the grazing and related purposes specified in the easement deed.

Compensation for an easement is determined after the applicant eligibility is established, NRCS has determined the land meets program purposes, and the applicant has read the standard easement deed and agreed to continue in the acquisition process.

NRCS will complete a site-specific appraisal for each offered easement, comparing the value of the land in the “before” and “after” condition. Unless the landowner submits an application with a lower per acre offer, NRCS will make the landowner an offer of 80% of the easement value based on the results of the appraisal.

What are the Restoration Payment Rates and Terms?

Successful applicants are also eligible for cost-share assistance for practices needed to restore or enhance the grasslands.

Both rental and easement contracts have a $50,000 annual payment limitation per person per year for restoration payments. Restoration payments are made after practice implementation, at 50% of the actual cost.

How Does Signup for GRP Work?

Interested applicants can review the program information available here or contact their local USDA Service Center. A signed application can be filed at any time.

Applications are grouped for ranking normally once a year, and are ranked on how well the proposed area meets national and state environmental and program purpose objectives. Applicants who are actively managing grazing lands or agree to roll expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) contracts directly into GRP 20-year rental contracts or easements are given priority. Other ranking criteria include threat of conversion to other land uses, project area size, quality of soils, and need for restoration.