USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) South Carolina State Conservationist Ann English has announced that Dec. 1, 2010, is the deadline to apply for priority assistance from three farm bill programs. 

The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) is a voluntary farm bill program that helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. Eligible entities include state, Tribal, and local governments and non-government organizations that acquire conservation easements from landowners who agree not to convert their land to non-agricultural uses and to develop and implement a conservation plan for any highly erodible land.

Land proposed for FRPP must meet one of two eligibility categories. This includes land that has at least 50 percent prime and unique farmland soils, and soils of statewide and local importance, or contains historic or archeological resources. 

The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore and enhance grasslands on their property. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) are coordinating implementation of GRP, which helps landowners restore and protect grassland, rangeland, pastureland, shrubland and certain other lands and provides assistance for rehabilitating grasslands. The program will conserve vulnerable grasslands from conversion to cropland or other uses and conserve valuable grasslands by helping maintain viable grazing operations. A grazing management plan is required for participants.

The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. NRCS provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program.

This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection. South Carolina pays up to $1,500 an acre for permanent easements and $1,125 per acre for 30-year easements.

There is a continuous signup for FRPP, GRP, and WRP. However, to increase your chances of funding, apply by Dec. 1, 2010. Interested applicants can visit their local NRCS office to inquire about eligibility and application details.