Texas Farm Service Agency (FSA) is asking federal, state and local agencies as well as private or non-profit organizations to submit proposals for a new 500,000-acre Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to improve habitat for high-priority wildlife species nationwide. Nearly 40,000 acres have been allocated for Texas

“The State Areas for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative provides an opportunity to develop grassroots conservation projects to address high priority wildlife needs through habitat restoration,” said John T. Fuston, Executive Director for the Texas FSA. “This initiative further extends the positive environmental impacts of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).” With more than 36 million acres enrolled, CRP is the nation’s largest, voluntary private-lands conservation program. CRP practices improve water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat.

SAFE will enable the public, producers, state and federal agencies, non-profit conservation organizations and others to propose areas where new CRP acreage may be established to address the habitat needs of endangered, threatened or high-priority fish and other wildlife species. In addition, conservation practices currently offered under CRP can be fine-tuned under SAFE to improve, connect or create higher-quality habitat to promote healthier ecosystems in areas identified as essential to effective species management.

Interested entities can submit a SAFE proposal for consideration to the local FSA Office or directly to the Texas FSA State Office attention: Sammy Orange, Conservation Chief; PO Box 2900, College Station, Texas 77841.

Although no deadline for submitting proposals has been set, Fuston encourages organizations to “act quickly.”

The national FSA office in Washington, D.C. has set a November 1 deadline for receipt of all state proposals,” said Fuston. “Because these proposals must go through a two-tier review process at the state level prior to review in Washington, we would like to begin receiving proposals as soon as possible.”

Eligible landowners in approved SAFE areas may enter into new CRP contracts with USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Approved program participants will receive an annual CRP rental rate equivalent to soil rental rates for the county plus an annual maintenance payment.

Also, the producer is eligible for cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent of eligible practice installation costs. In addition, producers will be eligible for a one-time payment of $100 per acre signing Incentive Payment. Producers may also receive a practice incentive payment equal to 40 percent of the eligible establishment costs of the practice.

For SAFE proposal details and protocol, contact Sammy Orange at the Texas FSA State Office; 979-680-5151 or visit the national web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov; click on “Conservation Programs.”