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(For the week of February 23, 2009)
Sign-Up For The Wetlands Reserve Program
by James L. Cummins
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) has been renewed through Title II of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, better known as the Farm Bill. Wildlife Mississippi spent a lot of time working on the Bill, especially the WRP. The WRP is a voluntary program that protects, restores and enhances wetlands, while maximizing wildlife benefits. The NRCS manages the program and provides technical and financial support to help landowners who participate in the WRP.
Many of the provisions of the Farm Bill became effective October 1, 2008. There has been an immediate change in easement compensation, which was one of the provisions that Wildlife Mississippi fought so hard to change. The change in easement compensation is now the lowest of the following: fair market value of the land enrolled based on either a Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices appraisal or market survey, geographic cap established by the Secretary of Agriculture or the landowner offer. Mississippi is in the process of reviewing their geographic rate cap for 2009. The geographic rate cap for Mississippi in 2008 was $900.00 per acre.
New provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill require landowners to own land for 7 years and have an average adjusted gross income of not more than $1 million average over the last 3 years.
Landowners in Mississippi with qualifying properties are encouraged to consider applying for the 2009 WRP. The WRP is a competitive program using a statewide ranking system to fund the most environmentally beneficial projects.
The application process for the WRP is continuous throughout the year. Funds are allocated annually for the purpose of purchasing easements and restoring wetlands on qualifying lands. All applications received by February 27, 2009, will be considered in the first ranking period. The NRCS is committed to delivering all Farm Bill programs authorized through the 2007 Farm Bill and is eager to consult with all interested parties about the many benefits that the WRP and other programs have to offer. Interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS field service center to file an application.
For additional information on the WRP and other conservation programs available in Mississippi visit: www.ms.nrcs.usda.gov, www.wildlifemiss.org or contact your local USDA NRCS field service center.