Signup deadline for new grassland program is Aug. 1

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
The application period for the the new Grassland Reserve Program will end Aug. 1.

Harold L. Klaege, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Salina, said applications will be taken until that time at the U.S. Department of Agriculture service centers, including the one in Marion.

“If producers are interested, I would suggest they stop in at their local USDA Service Center and visit with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Agency or Farm Service Agency staffs about the nuts and bolts of the program,” Klaege said.

“If the GRP fits into their farming operation, then producers should submit an application.”

Because the program is new, Klaege offered the following questions and answers to help farmers and ranchers understand how GRP will work.

Q. What is the GRP?

GRP is a voluntary program that helps landowners and operators restore and conserve grassland-including rangeland and pasture land, and certain other lands-by protecting those grasslands most at risk from conversion to crop land or non-ag uses.

The program emphasizes support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, and grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under the greatest threat of conversion.

Q. What land is eligible for GRP?

Eligible land includes grasslands, land that contains forbs, shrub land (including improved rangeland and pasture land), or land located in an area that historically has been dominated by grassland, forbs or shrub land when these lands have the potential to serve as wildlife habitat of significant ecological value.

The emphasis for fiscal year 2003 enrollment is the preservation and improvement of existing grasslands and shrub lands.

Q. Is there a limit on the number of acres a landowner may enroll in the program?

Offers for enrollment must contain at least 40 contiguous acres.

Q. Who may participate in the program?

Only landowners may submit applications for easements. Both landowners and operators may participate on rental agreements.

Q. What is the application process?

To participate, interested persons submit an application to their local NRCS or FSA office in the USDA service center in Marion. Applications for the program are accepted at anytime by either agency on a continuous sign-up basis.

Q. What are my enrollment options?

Enrollment options are 30-year and permanent easements and 10-year, 15-year, 20-year, or 30-year rental agreements.

Q. Can I graze my grassland while enrolled in GRP?

All enrollment options permit:

common grazing practices that maintain the viability of the grassland.

haying, mowing, or harvesting for seed production, subject to certain restrictions during the nesting season, as determined by NRCS.

fire rehabilitation and the construction of fire breaks and fences.

Q. What do GRP contracts or easements prohibit?

GRP contracts and easements prohibit the production of crops (other than hay), fruit trees and vineyards that require breaking the soil surface-and any other activity that would disturb the surface of the land, except for appropriate land management activities included in a conservation plan.

Q. How is the contract or easement value determined?

The value of an easement is determined through a professional appraisal. The landowner is paid the fair market value of the land, less the grazing value of the land. For 30-year easements or an easement for the maximum duration allowed under State or Tribal law, a landowner receives 30 percent of the fair market value of the land, less the grazing value of the land.

For 10-, 15-, 20- and 30-year rental agreements, the participant receives not more than 75 percent of the grazing value in an annual payment for the length of the agreement.

Grazing values will be determined based on local prevailing rental rates. Funding comes through the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Q. What should eligible applicants do if their GRP application is not funded?

Once funding has been exhausted, eligible applicants will remain on file until additional funding becomes available.

GRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill). The authorizing language provides for up to $254 million in program funding for fiscal years 2002 through 2007.

In fiscal year 2003, GRP has available $49.94 million. Kansas received an allocation of $1.6 million.

Q. How can I get more information about GRP?

The telephone number in of the Marion FSA office is 620-382-3714, and the number for the NRCS office is 620-382-3737.

Information also is available on the Web at: www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov and www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/GRP/ default1.htm.

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