By Lauren Moore, FSA Public Affairs Specialist
During a tour of Emerald Valley Farm in Newville, Pennsylvania, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor announced that the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has expanded the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands program to focus on small-scale livestock operations.
CRP Grasslands is part of CRP, a program that contracts with agricultural producers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production for conservation benefits in exchange for a yearly rental payment.
“For 30 years, lands in the Conservation Reserve Program have contributed to soil and water protection and wildlife and pollinator habitat, while playing a significant role in mitigating climate change,” said Taylor. “ Through this program expansion, small livestock operations with 100 grazing livestock or less can submit applications to enroll up to 200 acres of grasslands per operation.“
Following her formal announcement, Taylor toured the 200-head dairy operation with owners and operators, Clifford and Maggie Hawbaker. Clifford is a sixth generation dairy farmer who has been milking cows since 1970. Starting their CRP contract in 2009, Emerald Valley Farm has enrolled all cropland acres in the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP).
“I think this practice (is) a good option and choice for farmers,” said Hawbaker. “It helps the environment and it’s really given me a different appreciation for grass.”
With CRP Grasslands, landowners and operators can protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and other lands, while maintaining the areas for grazing. The protection of grasslands help to prevent soil erosion, sustains and grows wildlife habitats and improves the quality of water. The program emphasizes support for grazing operations, plant and animal biodiversity, as well as grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under the greatest threat of conversion.
“This new opportunity for small livestock operations, like the dairy farms or small beef farms common in Pennsylvania, will help ensure that livestock operations of varying sizes and across the country have an opportunity to achieve environmental and economic benefits,” said Taylor.
Enrollment will close on Dec. 16, 2016. Offers selected this fiscal year will be enrolled into CRP Grasslands beginning Oct. 1, 2017. Small livestock operations or other farming and ranching operations interested in participating in CRP Grasslands should contact their local FSA office.