TWRA Offers Incentive to Farmers for Wide Native Grass Buffers

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is offering a one-time incentive payment of $100 per acre for farmers to plant wide (50 feet or more average width) native grass buffers on crop fields under a 10-year contract in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The practice, CP33-Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, allows farmers to establish 30 to 120-foot wide buffers planted to native grasses on one or more sides of eligible crop fields or odd areas left behind by center pivots. Wider buffers and idled odd areas deliver more secure wildlife habitat.

To be guaranteed the TWRA incentive, applications must be received by May 15, 2011 and the CP33 buffers must be planted by June 30, 2011. Eligible counties include Bledsoe, Carroll, Chester, Coffee, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Franklin, Gibson, Giles, Greene, Hawkins, Hancock, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lincoln, Madison, Maury, McMinn, McNairy, Meigs, Montgomery, Obion, Rhea, Robertson, Sequatchie, Tipton, Van Buren, Weakley, and White. The TWRA incentives are capped at $5,000 per CP33 contract, which would equal 50 acres of native grass buffer.

“It’s a smart move to enroll unproductive crop field edges that lose money year after year,” said NRCS biologist Mike Hansbrough. “The TWRA payment makes it even more profitable for the farmer, and provides habitat that bobwhites, rabbits, and other wildlife utilize year-round.”

Under the CP33 contract, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pays the participant a standard CRP annual soil rental payment, up to 50 percent cost-share for cover establishment, an extra Practice Incentive Payment amounting to 40 percent of the establishment cost, plus a one-time Signing Incentive Payment of $100 per acre. The one-time TWRA incentive is in addition to and separate from the USDA payments. In many cases, payments received through the CRP program will greatly exceed what the landowner is currently making from crop production in these field border areas.

The practice also allows flexibility on buffer width in order to straighten out irregular field edges. Many farmers enroll the long edges of their row crop fields, parallel to their line of planting. In 2010, Tennessee reached a previous state limit on CP33 acres and was granted another 2,500 acres by USDA to be offered for enrollment.

While the CP33 practice is open to statewide enrollment, the TWRA incentive is only being offered in 36 counties considered high potential for bobwhite restoration, said Mark Gudlin, TWRA Private Lands Liaison. “With limited incentives funds, we’re narrowing our focus to areas considered as best chances for success and the best habitat practices to get there.

“Wider CP33 buffers increase the chance quail will respond to the new nesting and brood-rearing cover. While we have several approved planting mixtures, the ‘shortgrass mix’ is the one we believe provides the best cover and also has the best options for weed control.”

To find out if your land is eligible for this practice, contact the Farm Service Agency office in your local USDA Service Center. Detailed information on the practice can be viewed athttp://www.state.tn.us/twra/pdfs/cp33jobsheet.pdf .