TEMPLE  – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications to participate in USDA’s Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), a $4.6 million conservation program in Texas. 

GRP is a continuous sign-up program, but landowners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to be eligible for the initial funding cycle, which begins February 1, 2010.

The NRCS and USDA Farm Service Agency administer 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 through rental agreements and easements.

The enrollment options for GRP include:

• 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.

• Permanent easements – USDA makes payment based on the fair market value of the property less the grazing value.

Land that is privately owned is eligible for GRP. The 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. Land previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program is eligible for GRP.

Publicly owned land is not eligible or land already under protection from conversion to non-grazing uses is also not eligible.

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.