Landowners: apply to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands

Signup runs through May 15, 2020. 

When the opportunity came about to improve, update and make changes to provisions included within a United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) program, Western Landowners Alliance rolled up their sleeves and worked with Senator Bennet (D-CO) and other partners on the 2018 Farm Bill. One result: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands now offers benefits for landowners in the West. 

What is the CRP Grasslands?

The CRP Grasslands is a federally funded program managed by the FSA. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, changes were made to the program that can benefit western landowners, ranchers and producers who manage their land in a way that complements and conserves wildlife and wildlife habitat. 

Specifically, new provisions in the program recognize lands of ecological significance, including lands that support at-risk species, threatened and endangered (T&E) species and wildlife corridors. Farmers, ranchers and producers who include acreages that are known to be in areas of designated candidate, T&E species, critical wildlife habitat and/or wildlife corridors are encouraged to explore this opportunity to participate in the CRP Grasslands program. 

The program serves as an opportunity for agricultural producers to contract with FSA so agricultural land is used for conservation benefits, such as improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. 

“Through this CRP Grasslands signup, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands and pastures, while maintaining the land as working grazing lands,” said Richard Fordyce, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity, while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”

How the program works

FSA works with willing landowners, ranchers and producers who are interested in receiving annual payments for their participation in the program. Payments vary from state to state and from county to county within each state. For example, in Colorado payments range from $1 to $11 per acre. 

FSA outlines qualifications here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/crp-grasslands-signup_fact-sheet.pdf

Ranking factors considered during the application process 

  • Existence of expiring CRP;
  • Existing grassland;
  • Existing multi-species cover and predominance of native species;
  • State Focus Area (land-based) determined in consultation with State Technical Committee;
  • Applicant is an eligible beginning, veteran, or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher;
  • Existing small livestock operation;
  • Cost; and
  • Other factors as determined by FSA

Full ranking factors can be found here: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/crp-grasslands-202-signup-ranking-factors_fact-sheet.pdf

Eligibility requirements

A landowner or producer must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to closing of the CRP enrollment period, unless:

• The new owner acquired the land due to the previous owner’s death;

• The ownership change occurred due to foreclosure where the owner exercised a timely right of redemption in accordance with state law; or

• The circumstances of the acquisition present adequate assurance to FSA that the new owner did not acquire the land for the purpose of placing it in CRP.

How to apply

Interested and willing landowners are encouraged to contact their County FSA office prior to May 15, 2020 to apply for the program. 

FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff will assist in developing the application and ranking factors. The application will then be evaluated against other applications. If selected, the landowner will work with NRCS and FSA staff to develop and implement a conservation plan and a 10 year or 15 year agreement with the FSA and NRCS. 

Contact your County FSA office today

Nationwide map (click on your state for contact info): https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app

County office information for Western states: 

Learn more

Have questions about the CRP Grasslands Program? Need assistance in applying to the program? Please contact Patricia Dowd, WLA Policy Director, pdowd@westernlandowners.org 

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