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Thursday, July 16, 2015

USDA Announces Conservation Incentives for Working Grass, Range and Pasture Lands

USDA Announces Conservation Incentives for Working Grass, Range and Pasture Lands

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.

The initiative is part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally funded program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

“A record 400 million acres and 600,000 producers and landowners are currently enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program has been one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and we are pleased to begin these grasslands incentives as we celebrate the program’s 30th year,” said Vilsack. “This is another great example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat.”

The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences.

With the publication of the CRP regulation today, the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 1, 2015, with those applications scored against published ranking criteria, and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The ranking period will occur at least once per year and be announced at least 30 days prior to its start. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.

Later this week, USDA will also announce state-by-state allotments for the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE). Through SAFE, also a CRP initiative, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land across 37 states will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement made by Secretary Vilsack. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE.

To learn more about participating in CRP-Grasslands or SAFE, visit or consult with the local Farm Service Agency county office. To locate a nearby Farm Service Agency office, visit To learn more about the 30th anniversary of CRP, visit or follow on Twitter using #CRPis30.

The CRP-Grasslands program was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mendocino County Lease Clinic & Potluck/Mixer, Tuesday July 14,4:30-7pm at Ridgewood Ranch!

Creating Secure Land Tenure Agreements:
Lease Clinic & Potluck

DATE: July 14, 2015,
TIME: 4:30-6:30 Workshop; 6:30 Potluck/Mixer
LOCATION: Howard House, Ridgewood Ranch, 16200 N. Hwy 101, Willits, CA (map)

Are you a farmer or rancher looking to lease land in the North Coast region? Are you already leasing but wish to learn more about what makes a good farm or grazing lease? California FarmLink, The Grange Farm School and North Coast Opportunities invite you to join us for a Lease Clinic and Potluck!

This introductory workshop is geared towards farmers and ranchers in the first ten years of production who are looking to better understand the components of a good farm or grazing lease. Specific topics will include the legal and financial risks of poorly developed leases, leasing best practices, alternative lease clauses, and lease development and negotiation.

Join us afterwards for a potluck and networking!


  • Frederick Smith, North Coast & Bay Area Program Coordinator, California FarmLink
  • Tim Ward, Program Director of the Grange Farm School and owner of Anderson Valley Community Farm
  • Mark Biaggi owner of Laluna Farm and experienced Mendocino rancher. 

COST: Free – but space is limited so be sure to RSVP!

Sponsored by California FarmLink, The Grange Farm School and North Coast Opportunities

Sustainable Groundwater Management: What it means for agriculture in Mendocino County

 Hello everyone,

If you are a landowner and/or a farm owner, you are likely aware that Governor Brown signed new regulations into law that will require sustainable management of the state's groundwater resources. This regulation could have far-reaching impacts on your property and/or agricultural business. Join us to learn more about the regulation and how to plan for the future.

Frederick Smith, North Coast & Bay Area Program Coordinator

Sustainable Groundwater Management:
What it means for agriculture in Mendocino County

Learn about Governor Brown's new groundwater regulations and what they mean for you in your watershed with two workshops.

  • Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center (10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) map

  • Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at the Boonville Fairgrounds (2:00-4:00 p.m.) map

Topics will include:

  • Regulation Overview and Potential Impact on Ag (Jack Rice, California Farm Bureau Foundation)
  • A Strategy for Mendocino (Devon Jones, Mendocino County Farm Bureau)
  • Goals for Agriculture: A Brainstorm (Dave Koball, Fetzer Vineyards)
  • Risk Mitigation: What Can YOU Do Next? (Estelle Clifton, North Coast Resource Management)
  • Succession Planning & Other Ways to Prepare Your Business (Frederick Smith, California Farmlink)

Your business may be affected by this regulation - learn how to protect your property for the future with experts from the Farm Bureaus of Mendocino County and California, North Coast Resource Management, and California Farmlink.

To register for free, visit, or RSVP to Aubrey M. Rawlins at 707-901-7629

Thursday, June 25, 2015

30 Year Old Trial Finds Organic Farming Outperforms Conventional Agriculture

Many of us intuitively knew this all along, but it's amazing to see a 30-year study showing that, yes, organic agriculture is not only healthier for farm workers and eaters, but more productive too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Farm Conservation Client Gateway Now Open for Use!

On Wednesday, May 27, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released their long anticipated online portal for conservation activities. This new Conservation Client Gateway, is a streamlined online approach to be used by farmers, ranchers, and private landowners who have or are looking to secure NRCS funding for conservation programs. This Client Gateway is a secure and efficient way for farmers, ranchers, and other producers to work with NRCS planners online and acquire assistance.
What is possible on the Conservation Client Gateway?
  • Request NRCS technical and financial assistance
  • Complete and sign conversation program applications
  • Review and sign conservation plans and contracts
  • Track payments for a requested conservation program
  • Track conservation progress and request documentation of completed practices
  • Report practice completion
  • Obtain and store financial and technical documents and files
What type of information can be accessed in the online Gateway?
  • NRCS Financial Assistance Conservation Program applications submitted during the current fiscal year
  • NRCS Financial Assistance Conservation Program active contracts
  • Conservation Plans connected with an active NRCS Financial Assistance Conservation Program contract (specifically the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP))
This NRCS online portal will allow users to make fewer trips to their local field office and will allow individuals to complete all administrative tasks in a timely manner online. NRCS staff will be able to focus more on the users’ resource opportunities rather than paperwork by working with users through the online Gateway.
In order to access the Client Gateway, two steps are required for new users:
  1. Confirm your Service Center Information Management System (SCIMS) record – confirm that you have a SCIMS record that is linked to an email address by contacting your local USDA Service Center.
  2. Obtain a Level 2 eAuth Account – create your Level 2eAuth account that is linked to your SCIMS record by visiting the USDA eAuthentication Service website.
Access the Conservation Client Gateway here, and read more about the benefits of this innovative conservation resource.