Grassland Reserve Program application cutoff date announced
Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service for Kansas, announced a cutoff date for submitting applications for the Grassland Reserve Program. Although applications may be taken at any time, only those applications submitted by June 24, 2009, will be evaluated and ranked for funding for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) NRCS provides technical assistance for GRP.
GRP was reauthorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 farm bill). In FY 2009, GRP is funded at just over $48 million nationwide. Kansas received an allocation of $1.1 million.
"Kansas has the finest, most productive native grassland in the world," said Banks, "and GRP offers a way for ranchers and farmers--the backbone of our economy--to ensure this unique natural resource remains a healthy and viable part of Kansas for years to come."
GRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance grasslands on their property through permanent easements and rental contracts (10-year, 15-year, or 20-year). For the FY 2009 program, priority will be given to easements.
The program emphasizes the preservation of native and natural grasslands and shrublands, support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, and the protection of grassland that is under multiple threats of conversion to other land uses. Enrollment options for this land are limited to permanent easements and 20-year rental contracts.
"I would encourage producers interested in preserving their grasslands to stop by a USDA Service Center and visit with the NRCS or Farm Service Agency staffs to learn more about the program," Banks said.
Banks offered the following questions and answers to help farmers and ranchers understand how GRP works.
What land is eligible for GRP?
The overall emphasis for FY 2009 enrollment is on preserving native and natural species. Eligible land includes grasslands; land that contains forbs; shrubland (including improved rangeland and pastureland); or land that is located in an area that historically has been dominated by grassland, forbs, or shrubland when these lands have the potential to serve as wildlife habitat of significant ecological value. Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program with an expiring contract in the next 12 months is also eligible for enrollment in GRP.
Is there a limit on the number of acres a landowner may enroll in the program?
There is no maximum or minimum limit.
Who may participate in the program?
Only landowners may submit applications for easements. As proof of ownership, landowners must provide USDA with a copy of the documents which they took ownership (record of title, LLC Agreement, etc.). Both landowners and operators may participate on rental contracts. Operators must provide USDA proof (e.g., written lease) of control of the land for the duration of the rental contract.
How will my adjusted gross income affect my eligibility for GRP?
The Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) provision of the 2008 farm bill impacts eligibility for GRP and several other programs. Individuals or entities that have an AGI exceeding $1 million for the three tax years immediately preceding are not eligible to receive program benefits or payments. However, an exemption is provided in cases where two-thirds of the AGI is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry operations.
What is the application process?
To participate, interested persons should submit an application to their local NRCS or FSA office in the local USDA Service Center. Applications for the program are accepted at anytime.
What are my enrollment options?
Enrollment options are permanent easements and 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year rental contracts.
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; and
--fire rehabilitation and the construction of firebreaks, fences, and watering facilities and practices that protect and restore the grasslands functions and values.
Do I need a grazing management plan and conservation plan?
All participants in GRP will be required to implement a grazing management plan, conservation plan, or both, approved by USDA to preserve the viability of the grassland enrolled in the program.
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.
How is the contract or easement value determined?
The value of an easement will be the fair market values of the land less the grazing value as determined by the lowest of 1. an appraisal or market survey; 2. geographical area rate cap; or 3. the landowner offer.
For rental contracts, 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.
Is there a payment limitation?
Rental contracts have a $50,000 annual payment limitation per person per year. Easements do not have a payment limitation.
What should eligible applicants do if their GRP application is not funded?
Once funding has been exhausted, eligible applicants whose applications were not funded will be considered when additional (whether in the current FY or the next FY) funding becomes available if they have informed their NRCS office that they are still interested.
Who will administer the GRP?
Both the NRCS and FSA handle program implementation. Applications will be accepted by either agency on a continuous sign-up basis.
For more information
If you need more information about GRP, please contact your local USDA Service Center, listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, or your local conservation district. Information also is available on the http://www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/grp/.