USDA has announced additional conservation assistance for working lands through the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) in Texas.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) jointly administer the GRP, a voluntary program reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect grazing uses and other related conservation values by restoring and conserving eligible grasslands and certain other lands. The GRP helps landowners and operators protect working grasslands, including hayland, pastureland, native grasslands and certain other lands through rental contracts or conservation easements.

“Land that is privately owned, including expired Conservation Reserve Program land is eligible for the GRP program,” said Mickey Black, assistant state conservationist for the NRCS in Lubbock.

Although the program is available for expiring or expired CRP land, NRCS wants landowners to understand the program requirements, including changes in land designation and other options for participation.

Black said, “We encourage landowners to visit with their local FSA office to find out how the program criteria will affect the status of their land.”

For GRP, land must be grassland for which the predominant use is grazing. Land that has been historically dominated by grassland and provides habitat for animal or plant populations of significant ecological value, or land that contains historical or archeological resources is eligible. Publicly owned land is not eligible or land already protected by an easement or under an existing Farm Bill contract.

GRP is a continuous sign-up program, but landowners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to be eligible for the 2010 funding cycle.

The enrollment options for GRP include:

• Permanent easements – USDA makes payment based on the fair market value of the property less the grazing value, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.

• Rental agreements – 10, 15, or 20-year duration, USDA pays 75 percent of the grazing value in annual payments for the length of the agreement.

For more information about GRP and conservation programs that may be available for conservation technical and financial assistance, visit the nearest USDA Service Center or visit the NRCS Texas Web site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.