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U.S. National Debt:

Delegation Announces Grassland Reserve Funding

Washington, DC â?? Eastern Idaho is one of four target areas identified by the USDA today as eligible to receive a total of $49.9 million in fiscal year 2003 funding under the â??Grassland Reserve Program.â?? The Idaho congressional delegation is encouraging affected producers to sign up when the process begins at June 16. All funds will be allocated to the various states containing target areas by mid-July. Under the Grassland Reserve Program, producers place eligible land into conservation easements, thereby protecting native grasslands.â??Protecting native grasslands at landscape levels is an innovative approach that demonstrates the win-win nature of agriculture conservation programs. With this program we can provide another tool to help ranchers maintain working ranch lands, protecting them from subdivision and the loss of native grasslands,â?? said Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Rural Revitalization. â??I worked hard to include this program in the farm bill, and this announcement that Idaho will be included in the limited roll-out for this fiscal year is welcome news.â??â??This program was a collective effort between Senator Crapo and myself during consideration of the Farm Bill in order to maintain and protect our ranching industry and high value resources,â?? said Senator Larry Craig. â??These ranch lands provide animal and wildlife habitat, and this program is another excellent tool that helps maintain an important industry in the rural western United States.â??Representative Mike Simpson said, â??As a Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I strongly supported the inclusion of the Grasslands Reserve Program in the Farm Bill because it will help preserve grassland for both ranching and wildlife," said Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson.  "This program is another tool for Idaho's ranchers and landowners who want to maintain existing uses while conserving grasslands and providing enhanced wildlife habitat.â??According to the USDA, â??the deployment of the Grassland Reserve represents an historic beginning of America's conservation and protection of valuable grasslands. For the first time, USDA will focus funding resources and expertise on restoring, enhancing and protecting grasslands. The program will conserve vulnerable grasslands from conversion to cropland or development as well as conserve valuable grasslands by helping to maintain viable ranching operations.â??Other areas which are targeted under this program include the Klamath River basin in California and Oregon; Rio Grande River watersheds in New Mexico and Texas; drought-affected areas in Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming; and, lesser Prairie Chicken habitat in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Applications will be accepted at local USDA service centers on a continual basis.# # #