Ranchers – Will the new ‘Grassland CRP’ work for you?

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SUBLETTE COUNTY – On March 30, more than 300 people (including myself) tuned into the Western Landowner Alliance’s webinar about the USDA’s to-be-announced Grassland Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP.

The very informative webinar with WLA moderator Shaleas Harrison helped me (and 300 others) grasp the basic purpose of this unique USDA-funded program – believe it or not, ranchers and landowners can get paid to keep grazing and haying their lands.

The “catch” is that these acres cannot be developed or plowed into new cropland for 10 or 15 years – the federal government is realizing how important these working ranches are to helping keep wildlife habitat on the land.

“Working lands provide essential habitat that many species of wildlife need to survive,” Harrison said in a message. “It is important that programs like Grassland CRP and others compensate landowners for the stewardship and conservation of these lands.”

The USDA-Farm Service Agency pays enrollees monthly leases per acre that were very recently posted county by county online, with much of southwest Wyoming on a prioritized rate due to wildlife migration corridors, critical ranges and crucial habitat. Enrollees work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, locally agent Jennifer Hayward, to create a grazing management plan.

For example, Sublette County’s previous average CRP monthly lease payment was $20 per acre in 2021 and $18 per acre in 2022; the Grassland CRP will pay an average of $18 per acre. 

Wyoming’s voluntary Grassland CRP enrollment period just opened on April 17 and runs through May 26 and is administered through the FSA.

“Unlike general CRP, Grassland CRP is not a land retirement or fallowing program,” according to Harrison. “Ranchers can continue to graze, seed and hay land enrolled in the program. The program is administered through the Farm Service Agency and provides ranchers with yearly payments for sustaining wildlife habitat on grasslands while allowing livestock production activities to continue.”

Harrison spoke live with many officials during the webinar, answering many questions on the spot.

They also addressed the Wyoming-USDA Big Game Partnership administered through the Natural ResourceConservation Service (NRCS).

“The strength of this program lies in its many benefits — through annual rental payments, the program helps producers and landowners produce and maintain diverse wildlife habitat, sequester carbon in the soil, and support sound, sustainable grazing,” said FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “These benefits help keep agricultural lands in production while delivering lasting climate outcomes.”

Harrison is making a commitment to assist landowners through the WLA, which has a comprehensive “easy to read” website that explains Wyoming Grassland CRP and other NRCS opportunities.

For information about Western Landowners Alliance, visit https://westernlandowners.org/stewardship/.

To view the WLA’s March 30 webinar, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZdKXZPNQu4.

For more technical information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/state-offices/Wyoming/index.

To view the final 2023 rental rates, check out https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/reports-and-statistics/conservation-reserve-program-statistics/index.