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Deadline nears for Grassland Reserve Program money

August 16, 2005

Landowners have less than a month to submit applications for the Grassland Reserve Program, administered jointly by the USDA's Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The deadline is Aug. 26 to submit GRP offers and have them considered for funding in September. This year, Maryland has $133,200 available for qualifying applicants.

"The voluntary Grassland Reserve Program provides an excellent opportunity for landowners to preserve and conserve our nation's grasslands," said Elizabeth Anderson, executive director for the Maryland Farm Service Agency.

"GRP provides annual rental payments, typically in the range of $9 to $14 per acre, for a period of 10, 15, 20 or 30 years," Anderson said.

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According to a press release from her office, offers for participation in GRP must include 40 or more acres of eligible land. Enrolled land must be maintained in at least the same level of grassland quality as now exists, and cannot be used for production of annually planted crops. Also, land enrolled cannot already be enrolled in another USDA program.

Grasslands eligible for enrollment include pasture and permanent hayland. Other acreage which may qualify includes such incidental areas as land containing shrubs, or land in an area historically dominated by grassland.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service will evaluate each offer and rate its eligibility according to criteria, including current vegetative cover, susceptibility to urban sprawl, and the potential for conversion to cropland, Anderson said. Landowners whose applications are selected for enrollment in GRP will receive technical assistance to support grazing operations, and to increase and maintain plant diversity.

Landowners interested in applying are to contact the local FSA or NRCS Field Service Center at 1260 Maryland Ave. in Hagerstown. For additional information, visit the Maryland NRCS Web site at www.md.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/grp/grp.html

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