The Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers habitat leasing opportunities for producers and operators who wish to protect grasslands, including rangeland, pastureland, and wildlife habitats. Managed by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), this voluntary working lands program partners with participants to maintain these areas as grazing lands while adhering to a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)-approved management plan. In exchange for following these guidelines, the FSA provides annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to producers, ensuring the ongoing support and protection of these valuable habitats while allowing continued livestock production.


What Landowners Need to Know

Consider these things before enrolling: 

  • Land with greater than 5% tree canopy is not eligible. 
  • There is no limit to acreage that can be offered, but participants cannot receive more than $50,000 annually. At the minimum rate of $13/acre, this creates a functional acreage cap of 3846 acres. 
  • Enrolled acres must be maintained according to an NRCS conservation plan and protected from crop conversion and development. 
  • Participants must control noxious weeds 

Important changes to note 

  • $13 minimum payment rate!  Current rental rates can be accessed here. 
  • Grassland priority zones have been updated. Being located in one conveys an additional $5 per acre payment and increases ranking priority. (Ranking factors are found here.) 


Interested and willing landowners are encouraged to contact their County FSA office to begin an application to the program. It is a good idea to talk to your local FSA office about your desires and plans early, as staff are stretched thin as deadlines near. Deadlines for CRP applications are typically in May. 

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 


Find your County Office contact info on this map by clicking on your state: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app 


Watch this Informational Webinar

Grassland CRP & the Wyoming-USDA
Big Game Pilot Partnership

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How are the payments determined for Grassland CRP? 

The program provides ranchers with yearly acre-rental payments, capped at $50,000 per entity, for sustaining wildlife habitat on grasslands while allowing livestock production activities to continue. In return, landowners must follow a Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) management plan. The management plan may stipulate forage requirements, grazing regimes, and times for haying. Rental rates are based upon 75 percent of the cash rent data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) plus a climate-smart practice incentive. The FSA has rental rates posted on its website.

How is Grassland CRP different from General CRP?

General CRP is a land retirement program that pays landowners to take land out of crop production and to re-establish valuable land cover that helps improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. Grassland CRP is not a land retirement or fallowing program. Ranchers can continue to graze, seed, and hay land enrolled in the program according to an NRCS-approved management plan. To understand the difference between various USDA programs, check out our USDA comparable programs factsheet here.

How is Grassland CRP a habitat lease?

The leasing of land for a variety of purposes is long familiar to the agricultural community. Farmers and ranchers lease pasture for grazing, hay production, conservation, energy development, hunting and other public access. Similarly, habitat leasing is a negotiated agreement between a landowner and a lessee in which the landowner receives compensation for providing products or services that benefit public wildlife for a specific amount of time. Lessees can include individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations, charitable funders, government agencies, or a combination of interested parties.  

A habitat lease recognizes and compensates landowners and producers for providing public values at a cost. These costs can include such things as competition for forage and disease transmission between ungulates and livestock, damages to hay and fencing, livestock depredation, water-conserving measures, management changes to accommodate wildlife needs, and opportunity cost (e.g. foregoing more lucrative land uses such as development). Grassland CRP is a lease with the USDA. 



Unique Opportunities to protect Migrations in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana through the USDA Big Game Conservation Partnership

Working lands provide much of the essential habitat many species of wildlife need to survive. Landowners appreciate wildlife and understand that well-managed land can be a benefit to both wildlife and livestock. However, in some instances, supporting public wildlife can also come at a significant cost to the private landowner.  

The USDA expanded a Wyoming big game pilot program into a national landscape initiative in 2024, to include Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. In this initiative, USDA uses existing Farm Bill programs and Inflation Reduction Act funding, to further conserve seasonal ranges of migratory big game where they intersect working lands through voluntary conservation on private lands. A combination of FSA and NRCS conservation programs are available to producers in these states. The following programs, along with additional focused funding, work in synergy to bolster big-game conservation and economic support to producers who steward key habitat for migratory big-game species: 

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

Adjusted gross income (AGI) waivers can be considered on a case-by-case basis for landowners who traditionally would not have qualified for the program. The USDA also developed special guidance for better compatibility between USDA programs, enabling producers to combine Grassland CRP with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to improve range health. Example conservation practices provided through EQIP include wildlife-friendly fence conversion, invasive weed treatments, aspen regeneration, brush management, range planting, and wet meadow restoration. Historically, EQIP and Grassland CRP were not compatible on the same acres. Interested landowners who enroll in the Grassland CRP program whose land falls within the big game priority areas will be able to apply for EQIP funding.  


Have questions about the CRP Grasslands Program? Need assistance in applying to the program?
Please contact Shaleas Harrison, WLA Resource Coordinator

WLA is working with the USDA and Congress to address these issues and ensure that conservation programs work for landowners, not the other way around. The USDA is listening. Join WLA to ensure your voice is heard.

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