Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently updated payment rates for two popular conservation easement programs. Updates allow payment rates for wetlands to account for land value differences on cropland versus non-cropland. The new Geographic Area Rate Caps, or “GARCs,” apply to land entering either the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) or the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). According to Illinois NRCS State Conservationist Bill Gradle, the new process allows NRCS staff to offer clients a quick accounting of potential program payments. New payment rates vary regionally across the state and are based on new market analysis data.
By selling an easement under either WRP or GRP, landowners receive a lump sum cash payment in exchange for restoring or converting marginal agricultural land to wetland areas or designating grasslands for grazing or hay operations. The goals of these programs are science and conservation-based -- to restore the greatest wetland value possible and to maintain grassland functions and values, while also offering optimum wildlife habitat on every acre enrolled in these programs. Both WRP and GRP easement offers are based on the Geographic Area Rate Cap for that region, or the landowner’s offer, whichever is lowest.
For 2011 WRP:
WRP easement rates on cropland range from $2,800 - $4,400 per acre. WRP easement rates on non-cropland range from $2,500 to $4,000. See WRP map for counties in each designated region or view information online at www.il.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp_ewp/wrp_index.html. Because the program intent is to restore current cropland to its former wetland condition, all WRP applications must include areas with at least 50% cropland.
For 2011 GRP:
GRP easement rates range from $2,400 - $3,900 per acre. See GRP map for counties in each designated region or view map and program information online: http://www.il.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/grp/index.html.
GRP applicants can also consider using the Annual Rental Rate option for land that cannot be purchased or dedicated permanently. Unlike WRP, GRP easements permit/encourage producers to keep the land in working land status; grasslands are meant to be grazed, used, and well managed.
To sign up or access more information about WRP, GRP, or other NRCS conservation programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county or visit http://www.il.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.
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