Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
The GRP is a voluntary conservation program administered by the USDA's NRCS that helps landowners protect grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, shrub land, and other landscapes. GRP provides support for working grazing operations, enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity, and protection of grassland under threat of conversion to other uses. Participating landowners voluntarily limit future development and cropping uses of the land while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices and operations related to the production of forage and seeding, subject to certain restrictions during nesting seasons. In the 2008 Farm Bill, the amount of land that could be enrolled in GRP was increased by 1.22 million acres, and the USDA was authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with landowning entities to enable them to acquire easements. Unfortunately, the demand from farmers and ranchers in the Prairie Pothole Region far exceeds the program's available funding. Furthermore, GRP will also suffer the same fate as the Wetlands Reserve Program unless additional acres are authorized in the next Farm Bill.
New sod-breaking, Hyde County, South Dakota, 2005
The Prairie Pothole Region was once part of the largest grassland ecosystems in the world. However, the region has changed dramatically since the days of Lewis and Clark. After settlement, grasslands in the most productive portions of the PPR were converted to cropland to feed a growing world population. Today, grassland-dominated landscapes are largely confined to areas with poor soils, steep topography, and/or climatic conditions unsuitable for crop production.
A new wave of grassland conversion has occurred in the last decade, causing significant ecological and sociological impacts to the region. Current farm policy is fueling the destruction of this rare and important habitat. Congress must implement a policy in the 2012 Farm Bill to reverse this trend. Ducks Unlimited suggests calling this the "Sodsaver" provision.
Read more about Sodsaver »