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Sign-up underway for gulf coast lands

With official announcement of the Conservation Reserve Program’s Gulf Coast Prairies Safe Project made during an “Earth Day” event held April 22, sign-up for the program began Monday, May 5.

According to Robert Helmer, County Executive Director in the Evangeline Parish Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office, this effort targets the enrollment of 3,500 acres in the “Coastal Prairies Area” of Southwest Louisiana that includes portions of Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, and Vermilion Parishes.

Native grasslands historically covered approximately nine million acres in Southwest Louisiana and coastal Texas, but have since been reduced to less than 100 acres of remnants along railroads in Louisiana. Participants can sign-up to establish long-term enduring conservation practices on qualifying acreage that will restore native grassland and shallow water habitats in this region of Louisiana.

“Sign-up for the Gulf Coast Prairies Safe Program will continue until the enrollment goal is attained, or until a deadline is established by the Secretary of Agriculture,” explained Helmer. Land enrolled in the program will remain under contract for not less than 14 years nor more than 15 years.

The Safe Project is administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) with technical assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in developing and implementing conservation plans.

Helmer said over the course of the contracts, FSA will provide eligible Safe participants with an annual per acre rental payment bases on established soil rental rates. In addition to the annual rental payments, eligible participants will receive certain incentive payments such as a one-time Signing Incentive Payment of $100 per acre for CRP Safe contracts and a one-time Practice Incentive Payment equal to 40 percent of the eligible installation costs once the practice is installed, along with cost-share assistance for installing approved conservation practices. The required practices include “Wetlands for Wildlife” and “Native Grass Wildlife Habitat.” Under these practices, participants will restore native grassland and/or shallow water habitats in the Gulf Coast Prairies Safe region.

Applications may be placed and more information obtained at local USDA-Service Center Offices, located within the eight applicable parishes.

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