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Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

Helping landowners and operators restore and protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as grazing lands

Program Basics
The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a voluntary program that emphasizes support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, and grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under the greatest threat of conversion. The program assists owners and operators to protect grazing uses and related conservation values by restoring and conserving eligible land through rental contracts, easements, and restoration agreements.

GRP is authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended by the 2008 Farm Bill. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administer the program in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service.

Participants voluntarily limit future use of the land while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices; produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production (subject to certain restrictions during the nesting season of bird species that are in significant decline or those that are protected under Federal or State law); and conduct fire rehabilitation and build firebreaks and fences.

Application and Financial Information
Applications may be filed for an easement or rental contract with the local NRCS or FSA office at any time during each year's designated signup period. The program offers several enrollment options:

Permanent Easement Directly with Landowner. This is a conservation easement in perpetuity. Easement payments for this option are determined by the lowest of: a fair market value determined by an appraisal or area wide market survey, a geographic area rate cap, or an offer by the landowner. The fair market value of the easement will be the fair market value, less the grazing value of the land encumbered by the easement.

Permanent Easement through a Cooperating Entity. This is a conservation easement in perpetuity. Easement payments for this option are determined by an appraisal done to USPAP standards.

Cooperating entities may be State, Tribal, or local governments or non-governments that meet eligibility criteria. The cooperating entities must administer the acquisition process and provide half of the purchase price of the easement. The purchase price is defined as the fair market value of the easement minus the landowner donation.

Rental contract. Participants can choose a 10-, 15-, or 20--year easement. FSA will provide annual payments in an amount that is not more than 75 percent of the grazing value of the land covered by the agreement for the life of the agreement. Payments will be disbursed on the agreement anniversary date each year. There is a $50,000 annual payment limitation for rental contracts.

Restoration agreement. If restoration is determined necessary by NRCS, a restoration agreement will be incorporated within the rental contract or easement. The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) will provide up to 50 percent of the restoration costs. Participants will be paid upon certification of the completion of the approved practice(s) by NRCS or an approved third party. Participants may contribute to the application of a cost-share practice through in-kind contributions. There is a $50,000 annual payment limitation for restoration agreements.

Funding comes from the CCC and the program is authorized to enroll 1,220,000 acres through 2012. The funds to enroll those acres will be appropriated annually. The 2008 Farm Bill stipulates that 40 percent of the funding must be used to enroll rental agreements and 60 percent of the funding must be used to enroll easements. Either CCC or the cooperating entity holds the easement.

Applicants will be selected at the state level by the NRCS State Conservationist and the FSA State Executive Director. Selection criteria for each state will be made available upon request to the public before signup. Each state's application selection criteria will be available on the state's NRCS Website.

Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
Either easement option is available for application from landowners who can provide clear title. Landowners and others who have general control of the acreage may apply for a rental contract.

The Adjusted Gross Income provision of the 2008 Farm Bill affects eligibility for GRP and several other 2008 Farm Bill programs. Individuals or entities that are not eligible to receive program benefits or payments if they have an average adjusted gross income exceeding $1.0 million for the 3 tax years immediately preceding the year the contract is approved.

However, an exemption is provided in cases where two-thirds percent of the adjusted gross income is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry operations.

Eligible land includes:

Participants in GRP must meet Wetland and the Highly Erodible Land Compliance provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Participants are required to follow a grazing management plan developed by NRCS (or a designated third party) and the participant to preserve the integrity of the grassland.

Website
www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/GRP/

Contact
Elizabeth Crane, NRCS
Phone: (202) 720-0242
E-mail: Elizabeth.Crane@wdc.usda.gov

Jim Williams, FSA
Phone: (202) 720-9562
E-mail: jim.williams@wdc.usda.gov

Last Updated October 8, 2010

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