Announced additional conservation assistance for working lands through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP) has been announced.

The voluntary programs offer private landowners in 37 states the opportunity to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses and protect, restore and enhance grassland, rangeland, pastureland, shrubland and forestland.

“When private landowners and producers adopt smart conservation practices, we are able to make great strides to protect our water supply and maintain the high quality soils that capture carbon, reduce the threat of climate change, and improve wildlife habitat,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“This additional funding will enable even more farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect environmentally and economically important agricultural land and preserve the resources that are so critical to the health and prosperity of our rural communities.”

Included in the 37 states which will receive a total of over $80 million in additional fiscal 2010 funding are Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

This funding is made available through the 2008 farm bill final program apportionment for fiscal 2010. Funds for all three programs are being allocated based on requests for program funding from the states. These requests take into account the number of applicable acres for each program and the interest the states’ landowners have in program participation.

Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the FRPP provides matching funds to help purchase easements to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses.

The HFRP, also administered by NRCS, encourages landowners to restore, enhance and protect forestland resources on private land through easements and cost share agreements as well as working with landowners to provide valuable habitat for the protection of endangered species.

The GRP helps landowners and operators protect working grasslands, including hayland, pastureland, native grasslands and certain other lands through rental contracts or conservation easements. NRCS and USDA’s Farm Service Agency jointly administer the GRP.

For information on eligibility, contact your local USDA Service Center or visit NRCS online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.