From: Subject: GRP Handbook Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2012 15:29:09 -0600 MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/html; charset="Windows-1252" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-Location: X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2900.6157 GRP = Handbook



DM = 9500-012

United States =

Department of =

Agriculture =

Office of the Chief=20

Information Officer=20










DM=20 9500-012

Grassland Reserve=20 Program


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 General Provisions. 1


2.      =20 BACKGROUND.. 1

3.      =20 PROGRAM=20 PURPOSE.. 1

Part 1         =20 Responsibilities. 2











Chapter 2 Ranking Criteria. 7

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 7




5.      =20 RANKING=20 PROCESS. 8


Chapter 3 Application Process and = Eligibility=20 Requirements. 10

Part 1 Application Process. 10

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 10

2.      =20 APPLICATION.. 10




7.      =20 LANDOWNER=20 ELIGIBILITY.. 12



10.     LAND=20 ELIGIBILITY.. 13

11.     INCIDENTAL=20 LAND.. 13

12.     INELIGIBLE=20 LANDS. 14


Part 2 GRP Management Plan. 15





Chapter 4 Rental Contracts. 19

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 19


4.      =20 GRP=20 RENTAL CONTRACT.. 20

5.      =20 NOTIFICATION.. 20

6.      =20 CAUTIONARY=20 NOTES. 20

7.      =20 ACREAGE=20 DETERMINATION.. 21










18.     SUCCESSOR=20 =96 IN - INTEREST.. 24



21.     OTHER=20 REVISIONS. 25



24.     FSA=20 FARM LOAN PROGRAM... 26







Chapter 5 Easement Enrollment and=20 Acquisition. 30

Part 1 Enrollment and = Compensation. 30

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 30

2.      =20 SELECTION=20 FOR ENROLLMENT.. 30



5=20 .      = HAZARDOUS=20 MATERIALS. 32



8.      =20 LEGAL=20 BOUNDARY SURVEY.. 33


Part 2 Easement Closing. 35

10.     TITLE=20 INSURANCE.. 35




Part 3 Easement Title Transfer to Third=20 Parties. 38

Chapter 6 Payment Process. 40

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 40

3.      =20 FUND=20 OBLIGATION.. 40

4.      =20 EASEMENT=20 PAYMENTS. 41


6.      =20 COST=20 SHARE PAYMENTS. 42


8.      =20 PAYMENT=20 OPTIONS. 43

Chapter 7 Restoration Agreements. 44

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 44

2.      =20 APPLICATIONS. 44


4.      =20 COST=20 SHARE FUNDS. 44

5.      =20 TECHNICAL=20 ASSISTANCE.. 45


7.      =20 RESTORATION=20 PRACTICES. 46

8.      =20 ELIGIBLE=20 PRACTICES. 46

9.      =20 INELIGIBLE=20 PRACTICES. 47


11.     RESTORATION=20 PLAN.. 48


Chapter 8 Monitoring, Compliance and=20 Enforcement 51

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 51


Part 1 Rental Contract = Compliance. 51

3.      =20 RENTAL=20 CONTRACT SAMPLING.. 51







Part 2 GRP Conservation Easement=20 Monitoring. 54





Part 3 Easement Enforcement 56






19.     JUDICIAL=20 PROCESS. 60


Chapter 9 Cooperative Agreements. 61

1.      =20 OVERVIEW... 61

2.      =20 ELIGIBLE=20 ENTITY.. 61



5.      =20 GRP=20 MANAGEMENT PLAN.. 63




9.      =20 APPRAISAL.. 64

10.     EASEMENT=20 DRAFTING.. 64








Appendix A   =20 Appraisal


Appendix B   =20 Cooperative Agreement


WASHINGTON, D.C. 20250  






Grassland Reserve = Program=20


December 13, 2010=20

OPI: =

Natural Resources = Conservation=20 Service


Chapter 1=20 General Provisions



This=20 chapter provides general information about the Grassland Reserve Program = (GRP),=20 sources of program authority, and explains the roles and = responsibilities for=20 the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service = Agency=20 (FSA).  FSA automation = instructions=20 are in FSA Handbook 2-CONSV.


The GRP is = administered jointly=20 by the Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the=20 Administrator, Farm Service Agency (FSA). =20 The GRP is a voluntary program.  The GRP is = authorized by 16=20 U.S.C. 3838n =96 3838q. The GRP regulations are at 7 CFR part 1415.  USDA is authorized to enroll=20 privately-owned and tribal lands under rental contracts or conservation=20 easements. 



Grasslands provide = both=20 ecological and economic benefits. =20 The importance of grasslands lies not only in the areas they = cover, but=20 also in the diversity of environmental benefits they produce.  The lands provide forage for = livestock,=20 water for urban and rural uses, flood protection, wildlife habitat, = purification=20 of air, and carbon sequestration. =20 The lands also provide aesthetic values and open space. 


Participants = voluntarily limit=20 future development and cropping uses of the land while retaining the = right to=20 conduct common grazing practices and operations related to the = production of=20 forage and seeding, subject to certain restrictions during nesting = seasons of=20 bird species that are in significant decline or are protected under = Federal or=20 State law.



The purpose of the = GRP is to=20 provide assistance to landowners and operators to protect grazing uses = and=20 related conservation values on eligible private range and pasture = lands.  The program emphasizes support = of=20 grazing operations, maintaining and improving plant and animal = biodiversity, and=20 protecting grasslands and shrublands under threat of conversion to = cropping,=20 urban development, and other non-grazing uses.


Enrollment options = available to=20 interested eligible landowners or operators are listed in Table 1. 


TABLE = 1: Enrollment=20 Options





Rental Contract

10, 15, or 20 years

Private Landowners and/or = Operators

Permanent Easement held by the United = States

Perpetuity or the maximum length allowed by = state=20 law

Private Landowners or Indian = Tribes

Restoration Cost-Share Agreement associated = with a=20 rental contract or conservation easement held by the United = States

Length of time to complete scheduled = restoration=20 practices.

Private Landowners, Indian Tribes and/or = Operators who=20 are enrolled in a rental contract or easement held by the United=20 States

Cooperative Agreement with Eligible Entity = holding=20 Permanent Easement

Perpetuity or the maximum length allowed by = state=20 law

Eligible Entity with Private Landowners or = Indian=20 Tribes

Part 1    =20 Responsibilities



National leadership = is provided=20 by the Chief, NRCS, and the Administrator, FSA, and their designees. = Specific=20 agency responsibilities are detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding programs/GRP/.


NRCS and FSA at the = national=20 level jointly develop and evaluate program policy and direction, monitor = program=20 implementation, ensure that GRP information is made available to the = public,=20 formulate budgets, and coordinate national GRP funding allocations to = achieve=20 national program objectives. =20 Obligations are tracked at the national level to ensure 60% of = the=20 funding supports easements and 40% of the funding supports rental = contracts over=20 the life of the Farm Bill.  =


NRCS develops the = allocation=20 formula with FSA concurrence.  = The=20 allocation formula is based on resource-based factors, resource quality = factors,=20 and regional equity.  = Resource-based=20 factors represent the resource and demographic criteria used to = establish basic=20 infrastructure needs in a given state. =20 These factors relate to customer and partner needs as well as = land=20 use.  Resource quality = factors=20 relate to emerging ecological value issues as indicated by = federally-listed=20 threatened and endangered species and federal candidate species.  Additional performance based = factors=20 related to improving program implementation may be added as determined = by the=20 NRCS Chief and the FSA Administrator. The allocation formula may be = modified=20 periodically to change the emphasis of any factor(s) in order to address = a=20 particular natural, regional or state resource concern. 



The agencies jointly = establish=20 state-level program procedures and guidelines for implementing the = program,=20 including establishing state priorities and ranking criteria for project = selection based on input from the State Technical Committee.  Figure 1 provides a sample = format for an=20 agreement on specific responsibilities. =20 Each state will complete and sign an agreement.



GRP applications may = be accepted=20 by either FSA or NRCS at the USDA Service Center.  NRCS will maintain GRP records = and=20 reports sufficient for monitoring and compliance purposes, and advise = FSA State=20 Offices of compliance and enforcement issues on rental contracts.  NRCS will engage the Office of = General=20 Counsel (OGC) on easement enforcement issues.  Jointly, the agencies conduct = program=20 education and outreach.



At the local or = county level,=20 NRCS will coordinate with FSA County Executive Director, complete = ranking form=20 with input from the landowner, and provide the FSA County Executive = Director=20 maps and the easement closing date to finalize crop base reduction.  NRCS will complete the field = check to=20 ensure ranking score is accurate, ensure that National Environmental = Policy Act=20 requirements are met, complete program and land eligibility = determinations,=20 forward application ranking data to the NRCS State Office and maintain=20 supporting documentation locally. =20 All grazing management planning activities will be completed in=20 accordance with the National Planning Procedures Handbook and practices = will=20 meet standards and specification contained in the Field Office Technical = Guide.



COC is responsible = for=20 determining if a violation has occurred and enforcement of rental = contract=20 violations.  COC will = examine=20 compliance reports given by NRCS and notify participants where = violations=20 occur.  COC assigns = penalties,=20 interest, and liquidated damages for rental contracts.  The official rental contract = file is=20 maintained by COC.



The CED will advise = FSA State=20 Office of compliance and enforcement issues relating to rental = contracts.  Additional responsibilities of = the COC=20 may be delegated to the County Executive Director.  These responsibilities = include:


a.   =20 Coordinatation with the NRCS District = Conservationist or=20 designated local NRCS representative;


b.   =20 Making landowner eligibility determinations for=20 tentatively approved easement and rental contract applications;


c.   =20 Issueing GRP payments for rental contracts, = restoration=20 agreements, conservation easements, and cooperative agreements;


d.  =20 Performing administrative functions associated = with the=20 county claim control record, including verifying signatures, tracking = and=20 reporting easement and rental contract payments;


e.   =20 Maintaining official administrative records for = rental=20 contracts;


f.     = Issuing tentative Letters of Acceptance for = rental=20 contract applicants;


g.   =20 Making acreage determinations for rental = contract=20 applications;


h.   =20 Executing the rental contract (CCC-920) on behalf of = CCC;=20 and


i.     =20 Completing annual payments for rental contracts, = approval, modification and terminatation of rental contracts. 



The State Technical Committee = serves in an=20 advisory capacity to USDA.  = The NRCS=20 State Conservationist serves as committee chair.  The FSA State Executive = Director serves=20 as a member of the State Technical Committee.  Federal, state and = nongovernmental=20 organizations with appropriate expertise may be invited to serve in an = advisory=20 capacity on the State Technical Committee, provide recommendations for = ranking=20 priority criteria, identify program opportunities, and provide = assistance or=20 information to NRCS for GRP management planning for grassland birds and = animals=20 with declining populations (e.g., sage grouse). 


The State Technical Committee = provides=20 advice on the ranking criteria and process, eligible practices, practice = payment=20 rates, and program outreach.  States=20 may establish additional priorities to address state issues.    



Partnerships may be = established=20 at the national, regional, or state level to implement components of the = program, leverage of non-Federal funds, meet additional conservation = objective=20 that are compatible with GRP, and assist USDA with the acquisition of = easements,=20 rental contracts, and development of restoration agreements.  USDA must ensure that GRP = objectives are=20 fully met, and that USDA is the final authority regarding the use of GRP = funds.=20


Conservation districts may participate by = assisting with=20 identifying priority areas in their District, providing input to the = State=20 Technical Committee, assisting with the development of average costs for = practices at the county or local level, assisting with the development = and=20 implementation of grazing management plans, reviewing the grazing = management=20 plan and contract support document, providing assistance, through = cooperative=20 agreements or other mechanisms, in areas of GRP implementation where it = is=20 determined by NRCS to be in the best interest of the program, and assist = with=20 local education and outreach efforts.


USDA may enter into agreements with private=20 organizations, local government agencies, Tribal governments, federal or = state=20 agencies, conservation districts, and other cooperating partners to = assist with=20 easement management and monitoring, outreach, and program implementation = assistance.  Agreements = will be=20 specific enough to accurately and specifically track program = expenditures and=20 accomplishments. Agreements may include, but are not limited to, = accepting=20 applications, conservation and restoration planning, easement = acquisition=20 functions such as easement boundary delineation, or closing agent = functions, and=20 implementing restoration agreements, and monitoring activities.



USDA employees are = prohibited=20 from servicing GRP conservation easements, rental contracts, or = restoration=20 agreements on land owned or operated by the employee or members of the=20 employee=92s immediate family, on land in which they or members of their = immediate=20 families have a financial interest or where there is an appearance of or = actual=20 conflict of interest.  In = such=20 situations, the NRCS State Conservationist will designate an NRCS = employee to=20 provide assistance.



NRCS and FSA will ensure that = marketing=20 efforts reach potential GRP participants, including limited-resource = farmers and=20 ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, Tribal Nation/Alaska Natives, = and=20 socially disadvantaged owners of eligible land.  Strategies to reach all = potential=20 participants may include, but are not limited to, print, televised or = other=20 electronic media, contact with special-interest groups that serve = limited=20 resource and socially disadvantaged landowners, notices to = non-traditional=20 groups, door-to-door contact, and partnering with=20 others.


Special outreach will be made to = eligible=20 producers with historically low participation rates, including but not=20 restricted to, historically underserved producers, Indian Tribes, Alaska = Natives, and Pacific Islanders. =20 NRCS will evaluate the effectiveness of its outreach = efforts.  The comments and feedback = related to=20 outreach will be provided to the NRCS Outreach and Advocacy staff for = further=20 evaluation, in an effort that NRCS outreach can be viewed as a = continuing and=20 evolving=20 process.


The purpose of outreach is to provide services to all people in a manner that = improves=20 their understanding of USDA programs and services, increases their = participation=20 in USDA programs, and encourages them to participate in resource = planning and=20 the decision-making=20 process.


Procedures for program information = and=20 outreach will adhere to agency policy. =20 Information includes those activities to develop, produce, and = deliver=20 general news, knowledge, and facts about the program.  Information is delivered = extensively to=20 a wide audience.  NRCS = will use all=20 available media to provide information on ranking period information, = eligible=20 conservation activities, payment rates, and program descriptions.=20


Outreach includes those activities = to=20 develop, produce, and deliver general news, knowledge, and facts about = the=20 program to a specific audience. =20 Outreach efforts are typically aimed at producers who have been=20 historically underserved, have not historically participated in = conservation=20 programs, or who require special emphasis or accommodations.  The intent of outreach = activities is to=20 assure that the targeted producers are aware and informed of program=20 opportunities and have access to program=20 participation


Special emphasis will be made in = all=20 information activities to provide conservation assistance and program = outreach,=20 and access to limited resource farmers and ranchers , socially = disadvantaged=20 farmers or ranchers, small-scale farmers or ranchers , beginning farmers = or=20 ranchers, tribal members, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, producers = with=20 disabilities, and other producers with historically low participation = rates in=20 conservation programs.  = Special=20 outreach efforts could include, but should not be limited to, providing = special=20 accommodations, assuring that producers are aware, informed, and have = access to=20 information and assistance, such as using language spoken by the = intended=20 audience and using appropriate media sources to reach the intended=20 audience.


USDA will ensure that outreach is = provided=20 so as not to limit participation because of size or type of operation, = or=20 production system, including specialty crop and organic production.  The NRCS  State Conservationist and FSA = State=20 Executive Director will seek advice from the State Technical Committee = to=20 establish the process whereby the most desirable lands can be identified = and=20 potential participants be advised of the enrollment opportunities = available=20 under=20 GRP.


Chapter 2 Ranking=20 Criteria

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


NRCS State = Conservationists with=20 advice from the State Technical Committee will rank applications for = enrollment=20 in the GRP based on:


a.      =20 Support of grazing operations;


b.     =20 Protection of grassland, land that contains = forbs, and=20 shrubland at the greatest risk from the threat of conversion to uses = other than=20 grazing;


c.      =20 Plant and animal biodiversity; and


d.     =20 Leveraging of non-Federal funds for GRP = conservation=20 easements held by eligible entities;



Enrollment of = eligible CRP lands=20 whose contracts are within one year of the scheduled expiration date = will be=20 given priority through the ranking process.  No more than 10% of the total = GRP=20 enrollment acres each year may be expiring CRP lands.  This will be monitored by the = NRCS=20 Easement Program Division (EPD).


Applicants seeking = GRP enrollment=20 for their eligible CRP grasslands may offer the land for the easement or = rental=20 contract enrollment option.  In=20 addition to meeting the land eligibility requirements, the land must be = under=20 significant threat of conversion to uses other than grazing, and be = determined=20 by USDA to have high ecological value as determined by the Environmental = Benefits Index score.  The = following=20 factors will be used to determine the ecological value of expiring CRP = land:


a.      =20 Grassland productivity;


b.     =20 Water quality and quantity impacts;


c.      =20 Plant and animal species abundance and = diversity;


d.     =20 Sustainability of the grassland or shrubland = ecosystem;=20 and


e.      =20 Parcel size and landscape connectivity to other=20 conserved lands.



The ranking process enables the = NRCS State=20 Conservationist, in coordination with the FSA State Executive Director, = to=20 prioritize enrollment offers by determining the projects that most merit = enrollment.  Ranking does = not vest=20 any right or entitlement to funding by an=20 applicant.

The NRCS State Conservationist, = with advice=20 from the State Technical Committee, establishes a weighted ranking = process to=20 prioritize all eligible applications considering the national factors = described=20 above and any additional state = criterion.  The NRCS State Conservationist = will develop=20 a form to record the ranking criteria and develop a process to collect = data,=20 rank the applications, and select projects for funding.  These state developed ranking = forms will=20 be made available to the public through the state=92s=20 webpage.



The ranking criteria for = conservation=20 easements and rental contracts will=20 emphasize:


a.      =20 The environmental benefits of enrolling the=20 land;


b.     =20 Cost effectiveness of enrolling the land so as = to=20 maximize the environmental benefits per dollar=20 expended;


c.      =20 Whether the landowner or others are offering to=20 contribute financially to the enrollment to leverage federal=20 funds;


d.     =20 Protection of grazing uses and related = conservation=20 values; and


e.      =20 The productivity of the=20 land.


Additional criteria = may be=20 applied at the state level, as agreed upon by the State Technical = Committee.



After accepting an = application,=20 the District Conservationist or NRCS representative will complete the = ranking=20 worksheet with the landowner present. =20 A site visit is not required to complete the initial ranking=20 worksheet.  Initial = ranking data=20 will be submitted to the NRCS = state=20 office for state-wide compilation.


The NRCS State = Conservationist,=20 in coordination with the FSA State Executive Director, shall set a = cutoff date=20 and tentatively approve applications for funding based on the highest = ranked=20 applications and available funding.  If available funds are = insufficient to=20 accept an offer in its entirety, then the applicant may choose to reduce = the=20 acreage amount offered, provided that the application ranking score is = not=20 reduced below that of the score of the next available application on the = ranking=20 list.  If the applicant is = not=20 interested in reducing the acres offered, a lower ranked application may = be=20 selected.


Easement and rental = contracts may=20 be ranked in separate pools if the same criteria are used.  If an application is made for = both=20 conservation easement and rental contract, the producer must decide = which=20 application has preference prior to funding selection.  Separate ranking pools may also = be=20 established to address specific conservation issues raised by state, = regional,=20 and national conservation priorities.  USDA may emphasize enrollment = of unique=20 grasslands or specific geographic areas of the State, such as areas with = endangered or declining species.


After the producer = has been=20 ranked and tentatively selected for funding, the District = Conservationist or=20 NRCS representative will coordinate and conduct a site visit to verify = the=20 ranking worksheet information and determine land eligibility.  Final approval for funding of = the=20 application is contingent on the site visit and the application meeting=20 eligibility criterion.


Once funding levels = have become=20 exhausted, unfunded, eligible applications will remain on file until = additional=20 funding becomes available or the applicant chooses to be removed from=20 consideration.



USDA may establish = ranking pools=20 for issues raised by state, regional and national conservation = priorities.  USDA may hold funds in reserve = for=20 national or regional ranking pools.


Chapter 3=20 Application=20 Process and Eligibility=20 Requirements

Part 1 Application=20 Process

1.  =20 OVERVIEW<= /SPAN>=20


GRP is available to private = landowners and=20 operators of eligible land in all states, territories, and possessions = of the=20 United=20 States. =20 Eligible entities may submit parcels through the process outlined = in=20 Chapter 9.  Landowners may = submit=20 applications for easements and rental contracts.  Operators may submit = applications for=20 rental contracts only when they can provide written evidence of control = of the=20 property or the land, for the duration of the rental contract.  The easement or rental contract = requires=20 that the project area is maintained in accordance with GRP goals and = objectives=20 for the duration of the term of the easement or rental contract, = including the=20 conservation, protection, enhancement, and, if necessary, restoration of = the=20 grassland functions and values.=20


GRP is a continuous sign-up = program. The=20 NRCS State Conservationist in coordination with the FSA State Executive = Director=20 establish cut-off periods to rank and select applications.  These cut-off periods will be = available=20 in program outreach materials provided by the local USDA = Service Center.  Perspective applicants receive = a  program fact sheet with = applicant=20 requirements for enrolling in GRP, and a copy of the current GRP rental=20 contract, or a copy of the current conservation easement=20 deed.<= /SPAN>



Individuals interested in GRP = participation=20 must complete an application available on=20 eForms. =20 Applications are accepted by NRCS or FSA at the local USDA = Service Center.  Applications will remain on = file in the=20 administrative county until they are funded or the applicant chooses to = be=20 removed from consideration. =20


Rental contract applicants will = receive a=20 copy of the rental contract,=20 CCC-920=20 and=20 CCC-920=20 appendix=20 dated 08-25-09, a copy of the applicable rental rates by county as found = in=20 FSA Notice=20 22<= /SPAN>,=20 and a copy of the GRP fact sheet. =20


When the application is for a = permanent=20 easement, the applicant will receive a copy of the=20 Agreement for the Purchase of = Conservation=20 Easement=20 (NRCS-LTP-50)= =20 and a copy of the=20 GRP Conservation Easement Deed=20 (NRCS-LTP-60)= =20 from NRCS.  Landowners = must provide=20 clear title and written recorded access rights, and the all existing = cropland=20 base and allotment history will be permanently retired.  When mortgages and other liens = exist,=20 they will be subordinated to the conservation easement deed. =20


When the rental contract or = conservation=20 easement application includes restoration cost-share, a=20 Long Term Agreement=20 (AD-1154)<= /SPAN>=20 will be=20 included.<= /SPAN>



Following the cut-off date, = applications=20 that ranked highly and could be potentially funded will be examined for=20 landowner and land eligibility. =20 NRCS will ensure that site visits are conducted=20 to:=


a.      =20 Verify that the ranking worksheet is consistent = with=20 actual field=20 conditions;


b.     =20 Make land eligibility=20 determinations;


c.      =20 Verify the absence of offsite and onsite = conditions that=20 would preclude successful enhancement, restoration or maintenance of the = functions and=20 values;


d.     =20 Complete the hazardous substance checklist.  If any hazardous material or = potential=20 presence is noted, the site may not be eligible for GRP;=20


e.      =20 Complete Endangered Species Act (ESA) = assessments and=20 begin section 7 consultation with FWS, as=20 applicable;


f.      =20 Conduct National Historic Preservation Act = (NHPA)=20 assessments and complete required documentation as applicable;=20 and=


g.     =20 Examine the likelihood of successful = restoration, if=20 applicable, and if the resultant grassland and shrubland values merit = inclusion=20 of such land, taking into consideration the cost of such=20 restoration.<= /SPAN>


Based on findings during site = visits, NRCS=20 may need to re-rank the application and generate another ranking list. =  Any application found = ineligibile will=20 receive a detailed letter explaining the reasons for ineligibility and, = if=20 applicable, any actions that may be taken to make the property=20 eligible.<= /SPAN>



Tentative approval means that USDA = will move=20 forward with the GRP enrollment process. =20 Based on the verification of the ranking list, the NRCS State=20 Conservationist and the FSA State Executive Director shall tentatively = approve=20 applications for funding based on the highest ranked applications and = available=20 funding.  NRCS will = provide a list=20 of tentatively approved applicants to FSA. =20 FSA will notify rental applicants and NRCS will notify easement=20 applicants in writing of their tentative approval into the program. The = letter=20 notifies the applicant of the intent to continue the enrollment process = unless=20 otherwise notified by the applicant. =20


The letter explains that tentative = approval=20 does not bind USDA to enroll the proposed project in GRP, nor does it = bind the=20 landowner to continue with enrollment in the program.  The actual wording of the = letter will=20 depend upon the enrollment type of the selected application the actions=20 necessary for the application to be considered enrolled in the program = and funds=20 obligated.=



Applications not selected for = funding may be=20 deferred to the next funding period. =20 All applicants will be notified in writing of their status within = 30 days=20 of USDA=92s decision.  =  FSA will notify rental = agreement=20 applicants and NRCS wil notify easement applicants.  The notification will request = that=20 applicants who do not wish to continue to be considered for GRP notify = the local=20 USDA service center office within 15 days of receipt of the letter. =   If applications are carried = forward into=20 the next fiscal year, they will be considered applications for that = fiscal year=20 enrollment, renumbered and ranked accordingly.=20




All applications and forms will be = signed by=20 landowners of record.  = Operators who=20 demonstrated  control of = the=20 property for the length of the contract will have written concurrence = from the=20 landowner.  When there is = a dispute=20 between a landlord and operator the rental contract shall not be = approved until=20 the dispute is resolved without USDA=20 involvement.<= /SPAN>



GRP applicants must be the legal = owners of a=20 proposed easement area or be the owner or have written evidence of = control for=20 the length of the GRP rental contract for the proposed rental contract=20 area.  All applicants must = complete=20 the=20 following:=


a.      =20 Complete=20 CCC-505,=20 Base Reduction=20 Certification;


b.     =20 Sign=20 AD-1026,=20 Highly Erodible Land/Wetland Conservation Determination;=20


c.      =20 Complete form=20 CCC-926,=20 Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Certification;=20


d.     =20 Complete forms=20 CCC-901 or=20 CCC-902,=20 Member=92s Information for legal entity and joint operations=20 only;<= /SPAN>


e.      =20 Implement the GRP management plan approved by = NRCS to=20 conserve, protect, and enhance the viability of the grassland enrolled = into the=20 program;


f.      =20 Grant NRCS and FSA, or their representatives, a = right of=20 ingress and egress to the conservation easement or rental contract area = for=20 monitoring purposes;=20 and=


g.     =20 Comply with the terms of any associated = conservation=20 easement, rental contract or =20 agreement;=20


In=20 addition easement applicants must provide a copy of the current land = deed to=20 NRCS.  FSA will work with = customers=20 to gather additional information, if needed, to complete the Service Center Information Management System=20 (SCIMS) record.=20



Participants must be eligible for = GRP=20 payments in accordance 7 CFR Part 1400. Persons or entities that have a = 3 year=20 average adjusted gross income exceeding $1 million are not eligible to = receive=20 program benefits unless at least 2/3 of the adjusted gross income is = derived=20 from farming, ranching, or forestry operations.  Any GRP easement acquisition = or rental=20 contract payment will be reduced by an amount commensurate with the = percentage=20 ownership of any AGI ineligible member of a legal entity.=20



Landowner eligibility is subject = to the=20 provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation = provisions of=20 the Food Security Act of 1985, as amended, 16 U. S.C 3801 et seq.  Persons who are in violation = of the=20 Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions shall not be = eligible=20 to participate in GRP.  If = the=20 person is reinstated for USDA program benefits, they shall regain = eligibility to=20 participate in GRP rental contract.=20



NRCS will conduct an onsite = evaluation to=20 determine land eligibility for tentatively funded applications. There is = no=20 limitation on the minimum or maximum amount of land that a participant = may offer=20 to be enrolled in the program. Eligible land=20 includes:<= /SPAN>


a.      =20 Privately owned lands, which include Tribal=20 lands;=


b.     =20 Grassland, land that contains forbs, or shrubs=20 (including rangeland and improved pastureland) for which grazing is the=20 predominant use;=20 or<= /SPAN>


(1)   = Land=20 located in an area that has been historically dominated by grassland, = forbs, and=20 shrubs, is compatible with grazing uses; and=20


(2)   = Land=20 that has potential to provide habitat for animal or plant populations of = significant ecological value if the land is retained in the current use = and=20 condition of the land or restored to a natural condition or contains = historical=20 or archeological properties (including, but not limited to sites, = buildings,=20 structures, objects, and landscapes, including properties of traditional = religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian=20 organization (see Section 101(c)(6) of the National Historic = Preservation Act=20 (NHPA)) listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of = Historic=20 Places or addresses issues raised by state, regional and national = conservation=20 priorities.=20



Incidental lands, such as a rock = outcrop or=20 pond, may be included in the easement area to allow for the efficient=20 administration of the project area. =20 NRCS EPD must be consulted if the incidental land exceeds 10% of = the=20 enrolled.  Incidental land = includes=20 relatively small areas that are part of the land unit that contributes = to=20 grassland functions and values or assists in the practical = administration of a=20 GRP easement.  Land on = which=20 corrals, barns, pens, and energy or water supply structures exist may be = eligible as incidental land when such structures are necessary to the = grazing=20 operation of the offered property.   =20


Rental contract land area = determination is=20 made using FSA measurement services and may include=20 ponds.=



Land will not be enrolled if the = functions=20 and values of the grasslands are already protected under an existing = contract,=20 easement, or deed restriction or if the land is already in ownership by = an=20 entity whose purpose is to protect and conserve grassland and related=20 conservation values.  This = land=20 becomes eligible for enrollment when the existing contract, easement or = deed=20 restriction expires or or is terminated within the next 12 months.  Ineligible lands=20 include:


a.      =20 Publicly-owned lands and subsidiaries of = publicly owned=20 lands;=


b.     =20 Land already under ownership by an entity whose = purpose=20 is to protect and conserve grassland and related conservation=20 values;


c.      =20 Land that has easements or right of ways that = would=20 adversely affect the benefits of=20 GRP;


d.     =20 Land without right of=20 access;


e.      =20 Deed restrictions that prohibit the grazing use = of the=20 land or that would defeat any of the purposes of=20 GRP;


f.      =20 Land under an active Environmental Quality = Incentive=20 Program (EQIP) contract;=20 or<= /SPAN>


g.     =20 Land under an existing conservation easement, = contract,=20 or deed restriction that already provides protection for the grassland=20 resources.=


Landowners will be notified if = their land is=20 not eligible and will receive a letter explaining the reasons for = ineligibility=20 and, if applicable, any actions they may take to make their land = eligible. NRCS=20 State Conservationists may waive the contract period after practices are = installed on an active EQIP contract, thereby making those lands = eligible for=20 GRP.



If=20 at any time in the application process the landowners or operators are = found to=20 be ineligible for GRP they will be notified in writing of their status = and=20 advised of their appeal rights per agency handbooks.  Notification of Ineligibility, = with=20 information on appeal rights, will be given by NRCS if the lands are not = eligible.  FSA will inform = producers=20 on appeal rights related to AGI, person determination and payment = limitation=20 ineligibility. =20

Part 2 GRP Management=20 Plan



All GRP easements and rental = contracts=20 require a GRP management plan.  = The=20 GRP management plan describes the grazing management system consistent = with the=20 prescribed grazing standard contained in the NRCS Field Office Technical = Guide=20 (FOTG).  It includes a = description=20 of the grazing management system, permissible and prohibited activities, = any=20 associated restoration plan or conservation plan, if applicable, and a=20 description of USDA=92s right of ingress and egress. Within 90 days = after the site=20 visit, NRCS will develop a GRP management plan with the landowner in = accordance=20 with the FOTG standards and specifications for required practices.  A GRP management plan is = required before=20 any applications can be enrolled. =20


A=20 conservation plan may be developed in place of the GRP management plan = that=20 includes a schedule of operations for the implementation and maintenance = of=20 practices including a description of the grazing management system, = permissible=20 and prohibited activities, applicable information on species in the = local area=20 that are in significant decline, and a description of USDA=92s right of = ingress=20 and egress.  The GRP = management plan=20 may include implementation of practices addressing resource concerns = identified=20 in the ranking=20 criteria.<= /SPAN>



a.      =20 Grazing. =20 The program participant reserves the right to graze the land in a = manner=20 that is consistent with maintaining the viability of grass, shrub, forb, = and=20 wildlife species indigenous to the locality.  The District Conservationist = or local=20 NRCS representative will provide technical assistance to the participant = to=20 develop a GRP management plan that shall integrate grazing and forage = management=20 practices to protect and enhance grassland and shrubland functions and=20 values.  If pre-enrolled = grassland=20 and shrubland functions and values do not meet FOTG standards = restoration=20 practices may be required.  = Grazing=20 related activities such as fencing and livestock watering, brush = management and=20 prescribed fire are=20 permitted.=


b.     =20 Haying, Mowing and Seed Production.  Haying, mowing and harvesting = of seed=20 will be permitted, except on designated areas during nesting and = brood-rearing=20 seasons for birds whose populations are in significant decline, as = determined by=20 NRCS State Conservationist with advice from the State Technical = Committee. The=20 designated areas to be protected, and the period those areas will be = protected,=20 must be identified in the GRP management=20 plan.<= /SPAN>


c.      =20 Fire Pre-Suppression.  Construction and = rehabilitation of fire=20 breaks, and the use of prescribed fire to reduce wildfire hazard is = permitted,=20 except on designated areas during nesting and brood-rearing seasons for = birds=20 with significant declining populations as determined by NRCS State=20 Conservationist with advice from the State Technical Committee.  Burning activities and areas = must be=20 indentified in the GRP management plan. =20 Prescribed burning may be used to establish or maintain grassland = and=20 shrubland functions and values and other management activities necessary = to=20 carry out routine grazing=20 operations.


d.     =20 Recreational Uses.  The program participant = reserves the=20 right to undeveloped recreational uses, including hunting, fishing, bird = watching, and the leasing of such rights for economic gain, pursuant to=20 applicable state and federal regulations that may be in effect at the = time.  This right is granted as long = as that=20 usage does not adversely affect the land for the purposes identified by = the=20 easement or rental contract, as determined by USDA and as described in = the GRP=20 management plan.  The = participant=20 retains the right to prevent trespass and control access by the public = according=20 to state and federal=20 law.


e.      =20 Subsurface Resources.  If a third party owns the oil, = gas,=20 geothermal resources, or minerals on a potential GRP easement, NRCS will = inquire=20 if there is a lease.  The = owner(s)=20 of these subsurface rights may waive their rights, allowing the easement = acquisition to proceed.  = If there=20 are other ownerships and it is not possible to waive subsurface rights = or any=20 prior reservations or conveyances, a mineral assessment must be = conducted.  NRCS will consult with a = geologist to=20 perform a mineral assessment that identifies any subsurface resources = reserved,=20 whether there are any conveyances, potential production techniques, = impacts from=20 exploration, development and production. =20 If the mineral assessment finds an extremely low potential for=20 development of minerals on the site, NRCS will proceed with acquisition = by=20 completing a Certificate of Use and Consent.   If there are subsurface = resources that=20 could be developed and NRCS determines that such development would = adversely=20 affect the conservation values of the easement, USDA will not enter into = an=20 easement on that land.  = GRP rental=20 contracts are subject to termination or modification if subsurface = minerals are=20 developed.=20


f.      =20 Renewable Energy.  Installation of renewable = energy sources=20 for power generation is authorized provided their placement is = consistent with=20 the grazing uses and other conservation values of the program.  Facilities for on-site = generation to=20 primarily power the grazing operation can be reserved.  The opportunity to place = generating=20 stations on GRP lands is not a guaranteed right.  GRP rental contracts must be = terminated=20 before installation of renewable energy or related=20 infrastructure.


USDA will not authorize any wind = power=20 generating facilities (on farm or off farm) on GRP conservation = easements unless=20 USDA determines, based on a site specific National Environmental Policy = Act=20 (NEPA) environmental analysis (EA or EIS), that there will be no adverse = effect=20 on threatened, endangered or other at-risk species, migratory wildlife, = or=20 related natural resources, cultural resources or the human environment = or when=20 the impacts of such facilities can be mitigated to a level of=20 non-significance.  = Furthermore, USDA=20 will only authorize commercial power generation facilities after = evaluating=20 whether a reasonable alternative exists; whether there is a compelling = public=20 need; whether the purposes for which the GRP acreage was acquired can be = maintained, and the degree to which the footprint of the facility and = related=20 infrastructure impacts the nature of the grazing lands and other = conservation=20 values obtained through the contract or easement.  USDA will not authorize the = installation=20 of wind power generation facilities in situations where reasonable = alternatives=20 exist.  USDA will follow = the=20 Wind Turbine Advisory Committee=20 recommendations=20 developed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on = avoiding and=20 minimizing wildlife impacts from wind turbines.  USDA will assess potential = wildlife=20 impacts in coordination with FWS and the appropriate state fish and = wildlife=20 agency before authorizing any wind power generation facilities (on-farm = or=20 off-farm) on GRP lands. =20


For all types of renewable energy = sources=20 for power generation, NRCS may authorize the installation of these types = of=20 activities provided they are consistent with the grazing uses and other=20 conservation values of the program. =20 Additionally, NRCS will not authorize the installation of = renewable=20 energy power generating facilities, such as solar panel arrays, unless = NRCS=20 determines that there will be no effect on threatened, endangered or = at-risk=20 species, migratory wildlife, or related natural resources, cultural = resources or=20 the human environment or when the impacts of such facilities can be = mitigated to=20 a level of non-significance.=20



Prohibited activities on enrolled = lands have=20 been determined by USDA to be non-compatible with protecting, conserving = and=20 enhancing grassland resources.  = The=20 prohibited activities identified in the GRP easement deed and rental = contract=20 include:


a.      =20 Production of crops, other than hay.  Planting of non-perennial = crops, fruit=20 trees, vineyards or other agricultural commodities is inconsistent with=20 maintaining grazing land. =20 Harvesting crops, other than hay, for human or domestic animal=20 consumption or any agricultural commodity is prohibited.  Operation of the land, = including=20 planting and harvesting of crops, is under the control of the program=20 participant until the GRP easement is recorded or the rental contract is = approved.  Any annual = crops planted=20 before the easement is recorded and rental contract or restoration = agreement is=20 approved can be harvested.  = Cropland=20 contemplated for GRP must be restorable to grasslands or shrublands for=20 sustainable=20 grazing.


b.     =20 Development.  Expansion of existing = residential=20 facilities or the addition of new houses is prohibited.  This includes subdivision of = lots for=20 resale and future housing development. =20 No portion of the property shall be paved or otherwise covered = with=20 impervious material.  =20 Development of roads or other transportation systems that = fragment the=20 GRP acreage, modify topography, or otherwise diminish the grazing and = ecological=20 values of the area is prohibited. =20 Existing roads and existing utilities may be maintained, = repaired,=20 removed or replaced at their current location.  New roads necessary to conduct = common=20 grazing practices may be constructed when NRCS determines they are=20 needed.


c.      =20 Mining. =20 Extraction of soil, sand, gravel, mineral, oil, gas, or any other = surface=20 mining activity, including mining for peat and other organic materials = is=20 generally prohibited.  = Subsurface=20 exploration and extraction may be conducted when NRCS determines that = the=20 methods used will result in a temporary disturbance, and the activities = are=20 consistent with conserving and maintaining the viability of the = grassland=20 conservation values.=20


d.     =20 Trash Dumping.  Dumping, collecting, = recycling, or=20 storing of trash, refuse or waste is prohibited, except that animal = waste may be=20 applied as fertilizer at rates recommended in the GRP Management = plan.  Sewage sludge is not=20 allowed.


e.      =20 Hazardous Waste.  Sites containing hazardous = materials=20 that have, or potentially will cause contamination that would affect the = conservation values of the easement, will not be enrolled in GRP, unless = NRCS,=20 in consultation with OGC, determine that landowner can take actions that = will=20 allow the acquisition to continue. =20 See Chapter 5 part 5. =20 Hazardous materials include petroleum products, fuel oil, waste = oils,=20 explosives, reactive materials, ignitable materials, corrosive = materials,=20 hazardous chemicals, hazardous substances, toxic substances, radioactive = materials, infectious materials, and any other substance that may pose a = hazard=20 to human health or the environment. =20 Disposal of hazardous waste or disposal of oil field/mining = by-products=20 on the property is prohibited. =20


f.      =20 Other Activities. The NRCS State = Conservationist,=20 with advice from the State Technical Committee, may determine additional = activities that would adversely affect grassland and shrubland functions = and=20 values on the=20 site.<= /SPAN>



Program participants are = responsible for=20 implementing the conservation practices and measures identified in the = GRP=20 management plan on conservation easements and rental=20 contracts.=


The GRP management plan describes = the=20 implementation of the grazing management system and activities in = accordance=20 with practice standards contained in the FOTG including any associated=20 restoration or conservation practices, as required.  All costs involved in = maintenance of=20 fences, watering facilities, and management practices in the GRP = management plan=20 shall be the responsibility of the program=20 participant.<= /SPAN>




Chapter = 4=20 Rental Contracts

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


FSA is responsible = for=20 administering the process for GRP rental contracts.  The following section provides = a general=20 guide of the GRP rental contracting process.  Additional instruction on = automation is=20 available through FSA=20 Notices.




Applications are = tentatively=20 approved after the parcels have been ranked and the final ranking list = has been=20 approved by the NRCS State Conservationist in consultation with the FSA = State=20 Executive Director.  FSA = will send=20 the applicant a letter of tentative approval, providing the applicant 30 = days to=20 contact NRCS for development of a GRP management plan and to supply the = final=20 documents for eligibility determinations to FSA.  FSA will notify NRCS and the = applicant=20 within 30 days if at any time the applicant or land is determined to be=20 ineligible for continued enrollment in the program.



Eligible land on = which gas, oil,=20 earth, or other mineral rights exploration has been leased or is owned = by=20 someone other than the person interested in enrolling acreage may be = offered for=20 GRP. 


a.      =20 If  = the=20 person exercises the right to extract minerals from the land that is = subject to=20 GRP, COC shall:


(1)  =20 Terminate GRP rental contract on the affected = acres;


(2)   = Waive=20 refund of annual rental payments and liquidated damages;


(3)   = Require=20 refund of cost share payments; and


(4)   = Advise=20 the GRP participant that the land may be reoffered in a subsequent = signup if the=20 land meets all other eligibility requirements.


b.     =20 If a person enters into a mineral rights lease = or sells=20 the mineral rights after the land is accepted in GRP, and during the = CCC-920=20 period the lessor or owner of the mineral rights exercises the right to = extract=20 minerals, etc., from land that is subject to CCC-920, COC shall:


(1)  =20 Terminate CCC-920 on the affected acres;


(2)   = Obtain=20 refund of payments and liquidated damages according to paragraphs 25 and = 26;=20 and


(3)   = Advise=20 the GRP participant that the land may be reoffered in subsequent signups = if the=20 land meets all other eligibility requirements.


c.      =20 If exploration of minerals is performed by = sampling to=20 determine whether mining is feasible, COC shall not terminate CCC-920 or = reduce=20 annual payments if:


(1)   = The=20 exploration of minerals by sampling is completed within date specified = by COC;=20 and


(2)   = Any=20 disturbed cover is re-established at the GRP participant=92s expense the = land will=20 continue to meet eligibility requirements as determined by COC.



NRCS will coordinate = with FSA for=20 all proposed rental contracts, and=20 prepare a GRP management plan, and if applicable, a GRP=20 restoration agreement.  After FSA=20 receives the GRP management plan and any applicable restoration = agreement from=20 NRCS, FSA will prepare a rental contract for the producer.   FSA will determine acreage of = the=20 proposed rental contract, obtain all participant and CCC representative=20 signatures, and provide a copy of the rental contract to NRCS.  In order to complete the GRP = rental=20 contract, FSA shall complete the CCC-9= 20=20 according to the instructions provided in Exhibit 3.



FSA = will=20 provide the participant the CCC-920 along with instructions to complete = and=20 return the CCC-920 within 15 calendar days.  FSA will document the date of=20 notification to the participant either by certified mail, return receipt = mail,=20 or if hand delivered, memo to the case file by the FSA = representative.  Return receipt cards are to be = maintained in the official contract file. The CCC-920 does not require a = notary.=20  Upon receiving a signed = CCC-920=20 from the participant, FSA will ensure that:


a.      =20 County Committee signs the contract after = ensuring funds=20 are available;


b.     =20 Funds are obligated after County Committee or = CCC=20 representative approves the CCC-920; and


c.      =20 Obligations are entered into System 36 database. =



FSA employees = completing GRP=20 rental contracts must be aware of the following:


a.      =20 Owners and operators are responsible for = completing item=20 11 and providing the division of shares;


b.     =20 Owners and operators are required to enter only = the last=20 4 digits of their Social Security Number;


c.      =20 CCC representative will sign and date when all=20 eligibility requirements have been met.



A map generated from = the NRCS=20 Customer Service Toolkit will show the GRP rental contract area.  Official acreage is acreage = established=20 by FSA as an accurate measure for an area. This acreage is recorded and=20 maintained on photography.  = Until=20 the common land unit is certified, the acreage designated official on = the hard=20 copy map will be the official acreage. =20 A survey is not required.




FSA establishes = rental rates for=20 all counties at the national level and publishes notices when rates are=20 changed.  GRP rental rates = are based=20 on the relative productivity of the soil and the pre-established cash = rental=20 rate estimates for the county. These rental rates may be posted in the = USDA=20 Service Center and on each state=92s GRP website.



Corrections to the = CCC-920 and=20 GRP data are made when FSA determines errors were made  and funds are available.  FSA will have overall = responsibility for=20 completion and execution of the revised CCC-920 and appropriate = appendix. A new=20 CCC-920 number should not be used. Completion and execution includes, = but is not=20 limited to:


  1. Revising CCC-920 to reflect the correct acreage; =


  1. Notifying CCC-920 participants of correct allotment = reductions=20 if applicable;


  1. Having=20 all parties to the contract and the person making corrections initial = and date=20 the changes.



FSA employees should = correct=20 erroneous acre determinations.  = If=20 the CCC-920 is approved and more acres are eligible than originally = approved,=20 the additional acres may be included, subject to availability of = funds.  Retroactive payments will not = be made on=20 additional acres.  = Payments will use=20 the revised acreage during the next payment cycle subject to = availability of=20 funds.  If fewer acres are = eligible=20 than originally approved, the CCC-920 is corrected and FSA will not = collect=20 overpayments if it is an FSA or NRCS error.  Payments will use the revised = acreage=20 level during the next payment cycle.



Revisions to the GRP = rental=20 contract should be made only when there is a


a.      =20 Change of participants;


b.     =20 Change in succession-in-interest;


c.      =20 Part of the land under CCC-920 is terminated by = the=20 producer;


d.     =20 Land under CCC-920 is sold;


e.      =20 Loss of control of land;


f.      =20 Acreage changes due to change in measurement = system;=20 or


g.     =20 Changes to restoration practices are identified = in the=20 NRCS-CPA-1155. =


Revise the CCC-920 by = transferring the original CCC-920 data to revised CCC-920 and changing = only the=20 items affected by the revisions.  = Leave the rental rate and expiration dates the same.  Participants must sign and = date the=20 revised CCC-920 and the CCC-920 appendix dated 08-25-09, if = applicable.  Enter =93VOID=94 on the = original=20 CCC-920.  Provide copies = of the=20 revised rental contract to all participants and revise the automated=20 CCC-920.



FSA will consult with = NRCS about=20 the need for modifying the approved GRP management plan and any = applicable=20 restoration agreements.  = NRCS will=20 provide FSA with any revisions. Final approval for changes in cost-share = obligations for rental contracts is the responsibility of FSA. 


FSA will notify = participants=20 requesting a change that the participant(s) must consult with NRCS.    Upon receipt of a = signed GRP=20 management plan and restoration agreement from NRCS, FSA will notify the = participant, in writing, that the participant has 30 calendar days to = sign the=20 revised rental contract. CCC-920 signatures are required 30 calendar = days after=20 County = Committee = notification.=20 Before the revised rental contract is approved, County = Offices will ensure that all = owners and=20 the operator on the farm have signed CCC-920, if applicable. An operator = is not=20 required to sign a revised CCC-920 if the operator provides a written = statement=20 voluntarily relinquishing rights to GRP.


The requirements for = signatures=20 apply unless a trustee of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) representing = Native=20 Americans owning the land signs on their behalf, or a Native American = has a=20 restrictive 5-year BIA farm lease that has been extended according to = BIA=20 provisions.All CCC-920=92s signed by BIA representative on behalf of = Native=20 Americans owning the land will be reviewed by Regional Administrator. = County = Committee will not approve = CCC-920 until=20 Regional Administrator determines that the required signatures have been = obtained.



The CCC-920 may be = revised when a=20 participant loses control of the GRP land due to death, sale, or the = participant=20 is determined incompetant. Offer the person(s) acquiring control=20 successor-in-interest rights. =20 Terminate the rental contract if none of the acreage will = continue in the=20 GRP.  If part of the = acreage will=20 continue, revise the CCC-920 to exclude the acreage not being = continued.  The approved GRP management = plan and any=20 applicable restoration agreement will also be revised.  Any succession-in-interest = needs to be=20 documented in the County Committee minutes and if there is no successor = in=20 interest no refunds are required.



Acreage over which = the=20 participant voluntarily relinquishes the right to CCC-920 benefits, may = be=20 continued by the owner or other eligible participant becoming a=20 successor-in-interest. The participant acquiring an interest in = CCC-920:


a.      =20 May share in payments made according to division = of=20 shares on CCC-920;


b.     =20 Will be responsible for complying with the = rental=20 contract provisions; and


c.      =20 Will be liable for payment reductions for any=20 noncompliance after becoming a party to CCC-920.



A participant must = submit a=20 request, in writing, to the County Committee to be removed from = CCC-920 when=20 they no longer have an interest to continue.  FSA will:


a.      =20 Document basis for removal, in both County = Committee=20 minutes and in GRP folder;


b.     =20 Verify that a signed statement was received from = operator leaving voluntarily; and


c.      =20 Give the new owner or operator the option of = continuing=20 to operate the land or obtaining a new operator if previous operator = voluntarily=20 relinquishes rights to GRP benefits, files for bankruptcy or dies and = the estate=20 fail to succeed within 60 calendar days of County Committee = notification.



If a participant of = an existing=20 rental contract gains control of other land already under a rental = contract, do=20 not combine the CCC-920s.  = Revise=20 the existing CCC-920 to reflect the new ownership and advise the = participant of=20 the maximum payment limitation and adjust the latest rental contract to = reflect=20 no more than $50,000 per year.  = If=20 the participant does not wish to continue the rental contract, terminate = the=20 applicable CCC-920.  These = revisions=20 will be documented in the County Committee Minutes.



A producer who = becomes the owner=20 of land enrolled in GRP because of inheritance, and succeeds the rental=20 contract, may receive payments for that contract without regard to the = amount of=20 payments received under any other contract executed before the = inheritance. The=20 participant will provide adequate documentation, as defined by = County = Committee, to prove that acreage = was=20 inherited.


When a participant = inherits GRP=20 rental acreage and the recipient already has a share of the inherited = CCC-920,=20 revise the inherited CCC-920 to remove the deceased participant and = increase the=20 shares of the recipient to 100 percent. When a GRP participant inherits = GRP=20 acreage, and the recipient had no share in the contract before = inheritance,=20 revise the inherited CCC-920 to remove the deceased participant and add = the new=20 recipient. The CCC-920 payments will be processed in the normal manner = and the=20 $50,000 per year payment limitation applies.



An eligible person = may become=20 successor-in-interest to rental contract if the land has been sold, = there has=20 been a change in owner or operator, or a foreclosure or involuntary loss = of land=20 occurs. If an eligible person acquires an interest in GRP rental = contract lands=20 elects to continue, then revise the CCC-920.  If they do not elect to = continue,=20 terminate the CCC-920.


Before approving = CCC-920=20 revisions, the County Committee will ensure that the=20 successor-in-interest understands that any outstanding adjustments = because of=20 violations by the previous participant will be the successor=92s = responsibility,=20 and has one of the following:


a.      =20 A valid deed to the land under CCC-920;


b.     =20 A contract-for-deed with the seller that has = been=20 properly filed under applicable State law; =20


c.      =20 A final journal entry of a probate court showing = change=20 of ownership, if RA concurs; or,


d.     =20 Acquired right of occupancy, through foreclosure = proceedings, to the land under CCC-920. =20



If the owner is the = only=20 signatory to the rental contract (CCC-920) and no longer has control of = the GRP=20 land, then consider succession to be full succession in interest.  If an operator is also a = signatory to=20 the CCC-920 and voluntarily relinquished their right to the rental = contract and=20 is not replaced, then consider succession to be full succession in=20 interest.  If the operator = is a=20 signatory on the contract and only the operator will remain on the = contract,=20 then this is considered a partial succession in interst.  If the operator voluntarily = relinquished=20 the right to the contract and is replaced, this would also be a partial=20 succession in interest.  = The shares=20 on the revised CCC-920 will be agreed to by successor and operator, and = approved=20 by the County Committee.  = If the=20 CCC-920 will be continued on only a portion of the GRP acres enrolled, = this is a=20 partial succession in interest.  



When eligible = successors succeed=20 to a GRP contract:


a.      =20 An eligible person who acquires an interest in = land=20 under CCC-920 and becomes a successor in interest by signing CCC-920, = regardless=20 of the division of shares, is:


b.     =20 Entering into a binding contract with CCC for = the=20 remainder of the CCC-920 period;


c.      =20 Jointly and severally liable for complying with = terms=20 and conditions of CCC-920;


d.     =20 Responsible for refunding all payments made = since the=20 effective date of CCC-920, including payments earned by previous = participant, if=20 CCC-920 is subsequently terminated.


e.      =20 FSA will notify previous CCC-920 signers, when a = successor-in-interest CCC-920 is approved, that they are no longer = responsible=20 for complying with CCC-920 for the acreage in which they no longer have = an=20 interest.



The producer cannot = substitute=20 another eligible field.  = The fields=20 designated under CCC-920 are under a long-term contract.  Follow the steps below when = GRP acreage=20 no longer exists because of natural conditions.


a.      =20 Revise CCC-920 to remove acreage that has been=20 physically removed from the property after County Committee determines = that the=20 acreage is no longer eligible for GRP because it does not exist;


b.     =20 Return the bases, allotments, or quotas that = have been=20 preserved on CCC-920 for the affected Acreage. If the farm does not have = enough=20 cropland to use the entire quota, the history will be reduced = permanently;


c.      =20 Adjust farm and cropland acreage according to = FSA=20 procedure (3-CM).  = Revisions, other=20 than in this section, require the FSA Administrator=92s approval.



The County = Committee will notify new = landowners and=20 authorized estate representatives that they have an opportunity to = succeed to=20 CCC-920. FSA will not force landowners to agree to accept an estate=20 representative as an operator. If a landowner refuses to sign a revised = CCC-920,=20 CCC-920 will be terminated without requiring refunds. If a revised = CCC-920 is=20 not signed within 30 calendar days from the date of notification by = County = Committee, CCC-920 will be = terminated. No=20 successor in interest will be allowed.


Successors in = interest electing=20 to succeed to an existing CCC-920 will sign the current version of = CCC-920,=20 receive the same CCC-920 appendix dated 08-25-09 that was agreed to by = the=20 predecessor and agree to utilize an NRCS approved GRP management plan = and=20 restoration agreement.  Do = not=20 provide a different CCC-920 appendix dated 08-25-09 if the participant = on the=20 revised CCC-920 is the same participant signing the original = CCC-920.



Federal Agencies that = acquire=20 property that contains GRP acreage are ineligible to succeed to or earn = payments=20 under GRP or offer acreage for enrollment in GRP, except when a FSA Farm = Loan=20 Program gains control of GRP rental contract land. 



The provision that an = eligible=20 successor must control GRP acreage for the remainder of GRP contract = period does=20 not apply if during the period the FSA Farm Loan Program holds title to = property=20 that contains GRP acreage and an eligible Farm Loan Program borrower = exercised=20 the right to repurchase the property under FSA Farm Loan Program=92s = =93lease=20 back/buy back=94 provisions.  = GRP=20 payments may be continued if:


a.      =20 Participants sign a CCC-920, GRP Contract;


b.     =20 FSA Farm Loan Program continues to hold title to = the=20 property and the FSA Farm Loan Program borrower has signed; and


c.      =20 A lease to repurchase the property that includes = GRP=20 acreage and CCC-920.


GRP payments will be = prorated to=20 eligible participants, based on the date the lease was approved by FSA = Farm Loan=20 Program. No payment will be made under a CCC-920 until FSA Farm Loan = Program and=20 the eligible borrower have entered into a lease to repurchase the = property under=20 =93lease back/buy back=94 provisions. =20 FSA will review the Farm Loan Program lease to ensure that it = does not=20 otherwise violate GRP provisions then file a copy of the lease, CCC-920, = GRP=20 management plan and restoration agreement, if applicable, in the = participant=92s=20 folder.



The County = Committee will terminate all or = part of=20 GRP rental contract land under CCC-920 before its expiration date, = if:


a.      =20 Participant loses control of or transfers all or = part of=20 the land under CCC-920 and there is no successor in interest and the = County=20 Committee could not determine that a good faith effort was made;


b.     =20 The land under CCC-920 is transferred to a GRP=20 conservation easement;


c.      =20 All signatories voluntarily request, in writing, = to=20 terminate all land under CCC-920;


d.     =20 Participant violates the terms and conditions of = CCC-920=20 on that land;


e.      =20 Land under CCC-920 is under lease for gas, oil, = earth,=20 or mineral rights and the owner of these rights exercises the option to = extract=20 the gas, oil, earth, or minerals on all of the land under CCC-920;


f.      =20 CCC-920 was approved based on erroneous = eligibility=20 determinations;


g.     =20 Monitoring by NRCS shows the landowner violated = the GRP=20 management plan; or


h.     =20 GRP practice or practices failed on part of the = land=20 under CCC-920 and County Committee determines the costs of restoring the = cover=20 outweighs the benefits received from the restoration.


Terminated = CCC-920=92s may only be=20 reinstated by the Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs.  Neither the County = Committee nor the State = Committee have=20 authority to reinstate a terminated CCC-920.  The County Committee will clearly document = the facts=20 in the County=20 Committee minutes = when=20 cancelling the CCC-920.  = Each=20 participant and NRCS will be notified of the reason for termination and = that all=20 conservation compliance provisions apply.



For termination COC = must request=20 refund of all of the following:


a.      =20 All annual rental payments plus interest;


b.     =20 All cost share payments, plus interest; and


c.      =20 Liquidated damages, if applicable.


To determine the = dollar amount=20 when assessing liquidated damages, multiply the number of acres being = terminated=20 times 25 percent of the annual rental rate.  COC shall assess liquidated = damages if=20 an original or revised CCC-920 is terminated by the participant, or = terminated=20 by USDA due to contract violations and/or schemes or devices by the=20 participant. 


Do not assess = liquidated damages=20 if GRP land is acquired under eminent domain or acquired by an entity = with the=20 right of eminent domain or under an existing lease for earth, oil, gas, = or other=20 mineral exploration before submission of GRP and lessor exercises rights = under=20 the lease.


Cost share payments = may be=20 prorated after the restoration practice has been established for 5 years = if=20 County Committee determines, after consulting with = the=20 County Executive Director and = NRCS,=20 that the established conservation practices have achieved the desired=20 conservation benefits.  =



COC = and State=20 Committee are authorized to waive refunds when a request to waive = refunds is=20 received from participants, in writing. =20 It is the producer=92s responsibility to request a waiver of = refunds.  The COC has authority to waive = refunds=20 when the total total amount of refunds calculated according to paragraph = 26 in=20 this Chapter does not exceed $10,000. =20 COC shall:


a.      =20 Ensure = that=20 participants are provided appeal rights;


b.     =20 Document=20 requests for waivers in COC minutes;


c.      =20 Submit = requests=20 for waivers in excess of $10,000 to STC or SED, as=20 applicable;


d.     =20 Not = submit=20 requests for waivers to STC or SED if COC does not recommend approval;=20 and


e.      =20 Provide a report=20 of waivers of refunds, no later than December 1 each year, to the FSA = State=20 Office.


The = State=20 Committee has authority to waive refunds up to $50,000.   Otherwise requests must = be=20 submitted to Deputy Administrator for Farm = Programs.


Example: The total = refund amount=20 calculated is $80,000. The producer requested a waiver of $30,000.  Because the total calculated = refund=20 amount exceeds $50,000, the State Committee must submit the request for = waiver=20 to Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs if it recommends approval of = the=20 waiver.  Ensure that cases = contain a=20 copy of participant=92s written request for relief, a copy of County = Committee and State Committee = minutes=20 thoroughly documenting request and justification, a copy of all = applicable forms=20 and documents in the case file, including but not limited to = CCC-920=92s, and copy=20 of aerial photography, GRP management plans, land deeds, all = documentation used=20 by County=20 Committee and = State=20 Committee during review, and a narrative of the case in chronological = order.


The County = Committee will clearly document = in County=20 Committee minutes that the costs of restoring the cover outweigh the = benefits=20 received from the restoration. Additionally, refunds of CCC-920 payments = are not=20 required when the administrator or heirs of an owner=92s estate do not = become=20 successor in interest to CCC-920. =20 The owner=92s estate does not need to refund payment when the = estate or the=20 heirs do not succeed to CCC-920 and heirs do not need to refund payment = if the=20 deceased has no estate and the heirs do not succeed to CCC-920.



GRP rental land = acquired under=20 threat of condemnation or by eminent domain for public use is considered = an=20 involuntary loss of land by the participant. The County Committee will clearly document in = County = Committee minutes that the costs = of=20 restoring the cover outweigh the benefits received from the restoration. =  GRP payments will be prorated = to eligible=20 participants based on the date the land was acquired by eminent domain. = Upon=20 acquiring these lands, the County Committee will:


a.      =20 Terminate the GRP acres acquired through = condemnation or=20 eminent domain;


b.     =20 Waive the refund of annual rental payments and = C/S=20 payments; and


c.      =20 Not assess liquidated damages.


GRP rental acreage = may be=20 continued under CCC-920 if there is minimal impact on the affected = acreage and=20 the vegetative cover is maintained.



Landowners with GRP = or CRP rental=20 contracts may offer the land for a GRP conservation easement; however, = land=20 cannot be enrolled under both a rental contract and a GRP conservation = easement=20 at the same time.  The = rental=20 contract shall be terminated effective on the date the easement is = recorded in=20 the local land records office.  = The=20 final annual rental contract payment will be prorated based on the date = the deed=20 is recorded. Participating landowner(s), with agreement from NRCS and = FSA, may=20 convert rental contracts to an easement, providing funds are available = and the=20 offered area meets conditions and eligibility criteria established by = NRCS.



At a minimum, the = official=20 administrative file at the FSA County Office should, on an annual basis, = include=20 verification of land ownership, a GRP Monitoring Checklist, and = documentation on=20 violations, if applicable and the following:


a.      =20 Offical maps with acreage designated;


b.     =20 Copy of GRP management plan and restoration = agreement if=20 applicable;


c.      =20 Copy of acreage measurements.


Chapter 5 Easement Enrollment and=20 Acquisition

Part 1 Enrollment and=20 Compensation

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


NRCS is responsible = for=20 administering the easement acquisition process, while FSA is responsible = for=20 funds control. This chapter provides a general overview of the GRP = easement=20 acquisition process and applies to GRP easements held by the United=20 States.



At the beginning of = each fiscal=20 year, the NRCS State Conservationist may establish one or more ranking = cut off=20 dates.  Applications with = the=20 highest ranking will be evaluated for landowner and land = eligibility.  All applications not selected = will be=20 carried forward to the next ranking unless the applicant withdraws the=20 application or the application is determined to be ineligible.



If NRCS determines = that a project=20 ranks high enough for funding and meets all eligibility requirements, a = letter=20 will be sent to the landowner notifying them of tentative = selection.  The letter will explain that = this=20 tentative selection does not bind the USDA to enroll the proposed = project in=20 GRP, nor does it bind the landowner to continue with enrollment in the=20 program.  However, the = landowner=92s=20 acceptance of the tentative selection is required prior to NRCS = proceeding with=20 completion of easement compensation.



Easement compensation = received by=20 the landowner shall be in addition to, and not affect, the total amount = of=20 payments that the landowner is otherwise eligible to receive under other = USDA=20 programs.  Payments shall = not exceed=20 the fair market value of the land less the grazing value of the land = encumbered=20 by the GRP conservation easement. =20 NRCS will accept the lowest amount as determined by the following = three=20 methods:


a.      =20 Appraisal or an Area-wide Market Survey


(1)   =  Appraisal


All = easement=20 acquisition appraisals completed for this program shall be completed in=20 accordance with the Uniform = Standards of=20 Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) as a self contained = report.  Appraisal instructions are = found in=20 Appendix A and require that an appraisal be completed of the proposed = easement=20 area for the unencumbered land and an appraisal completed for the = proposed=20 encumbered land.  The = difference=20 between these two values is the easement compensation.


(2)   =  Area-wide Market Survey


     =20 When sufficient information exists an area-wide market survey may = be=20 used.  It examines how a = particular=20 property will be absorbed, sold, or leased under current or anticipated = market=20 conditions.  It identifies = the=20 characteristics of the subject=92s market and quantifies their effect on = the value=20 of the property.  A = marketability=20 study examines the demand and supply under current market conditions for = the=20 estimate of =93as is=94 value.  = It is=20 based on sales of comparable grassland properties and values are = adjusted for=20 property differences.


     =20 The area-wide market survey will be completed by an = independent=20 qualified professional who is familiar with the geographic area and land = use=20 types and values to be included in the analysis. The = determination of the=20 area to be included within a specific area-wide market survey will be = based on=20 similar land uses, land productivity, land unit size, types and amounts = of=20 improvements, potential influence of other factors such as development = pressure,=20 general topography and natural features, and irrigation water rights, if = applicable.  The fair = market values=20 determined through the area-wide market survey must reflect the value of = land=20 normally enrolled in GRP in that geographic area.


     =20 The State Conservationist = shall document=20 in writing the process used to determine the area for each market = survey, the=20 land use categories considered, along with sub-categories, the actual = sales data=20 for each category and sub-category, and the source of the data.


b.     =20 Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) Geographic Area = Rate Cap=20 (GARC)


Each = NRCS State=20 Conservationist, in consultation with the State Technical Committee, = must adopt=20 at least one GRP GARC for their state or set multiple sub-state area or = county=20 level caps.  States may = establish=20 GARCs based on counties or other sub-state regions, land use quality = categories,=20 or other considerations such as development pressure and residual = recreational=20 value.   The GRP = GARC(s) for=20 each state should not exceed the fair market value of the land less the = grazing=20 value of the land encumbered by the easement and should be set at a = level that=20 encourages the enrollment of high quality grasslands, rangelands and = shrublands.=20  The GARC(s) must reflect = the value=20 that the NRCS State Conservationist determines to be fair compensation = for the=20 easement rights being acquired. =20 Because NRCS is only acquiring a portion of the land rights, the = GARC(s)=20 will always be less than the fair market value of the land as determined = by the=20 area-wide market survey or USPAP appraisal. The percentage reduction, = therefore,=20 must reflect the proportionate value of the property rights being = acquired in=20 the easement transaction.  =


States should=20 utilize the best readily available information for assessing fair = compensation=20 for the easements rights being acquired. =20 States with datasets of previously obtained appraisals or = appraisals from=20 partners with similar conservation easement programs may use those = datasets to=20 determine the relationship between the value of the land encumbered by = easements=20 and the fair market value of the unencumbered land less the grazing = value,=20 determined though an area-wide market survey.  This relationship, expressed = in=20 percentage terms, can then be applied to the fair market value as = determined by=20 the area-wide market survey.  = This=20 GARC can then be compared to the amount to be offered to the landowner, = with the=20 lowest value being the easement compensation. 


Where = area-wide=20 market surveys are not obtained, states can utilize per acre land values = from=20 the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) as a proxy for the = fair=20 market value of unencumbered land. =20 The GARC can then be established as the relationship between = easement=20 values (as determined by a review of easement appraisals) and the NASS=20 value.  This method will = require=20 states to obtain appraisals for comparison to the GARC and landowner = offer.


c.      =20 Landowner offer  


A = landowner may=20 voluntarily accept less compensation than is being offered by NRCS.  This decision may enhance the=20 probability of enrollment.  = The=20 landowner=92s offer to take a lesser amount for easement compensation = must be=20 declared in writing.    =



The potential for = hazardous=20 substance contamination on GRP easements sites will be assessed during=20 pre-acquisition.  During = the initial=20 site visit to the proposed easement project area, NRCS will verify land=20 eligibility, including the presence of hazardous substances.  NRCS will contract an = environmental=20 database search, complete the Preliminary=20 Certificate of Inspection and Possession, and complete a thorough = visual and=20 physical inspection for the presence of hazardous substances.  See Chapter 6 part 3 for the = process on=20 how to secure and obligate funds for this activity.


If a hazardous = substance is found=20 during the environmental database search, physical inspection or the = title=20 clearance process, NRCS, in consultation with the OGC, will ascertain = whether a=20 combination of landowner or operators response actions and liability = protections=20 provided to the United States can be established to allow the = acquisition to=20 continue.



After the easement = value has been=20 determined, NRCS will prepare the Agreement for the  Purchase of Conservation = Easement (APCE),=20 Form NRCS-LTP-50. =  The APCE is NRCS=92s offer to = the landowner=20 and shall be offered to the landowner after the easement valuation = process is=20 completed.  The APCE to=20 purchase:


  1. Shall=20 be updated if the legal land survey determines the final acreage = measurement=20 to be different that the acreage on the original APCE;


  1. Must=20 be delivered to the landowner with appropriate instructions for = properly=20 executing and returning the agreement within 15 calendar days.  Date of delivery to the = landowner must=20 be documented.  The = return-receipt=20 card must be filed with the official agreement.  If the District = Conservationist or=20 NRCS representative delivers to the landowner, a memorandum to the = case file=20 must be created and maintained verifying the delivery of the document. =


  1. Does=20 not require notary of signatures. =20


  1. Must=20 be signed by the NRCS State Conservationist after confirming, in = writing, from=20 FSA that funds are available.  = The=20 NRCS State Conservationist may re-delegate, in writing, authority to = sign the=20 APCE.  Execution of the = APCE by=20 the landowner and NRCS is authorization to proceed with the easement=20 acquisition process.  = The APCE=20 will not be signed until FSA verifies that funds are available.  



A fully signed (by = landowner and=20 NRCS) APCE is the document that obligates funds.  NRCS State Office shall = provide a copy=20 of the fully signed APCE to the FSA State Office, and request, in = writing, that=20 all funds necessary to acquire the GRP conservation easement be = obligated.  FSA State Office shall = obligate all=20 necessary funds to acquire the GRP conservation easement upon receipt of = NRCS=20 instructions and the fully signed copy of the APCE. 


The APCE identifies a = best=20 estimate of the easement acreage. =20 Once a survey has been completed, the APCE may be amended to = reflect the=20 measured acreage and any appropriate adjustment to the payment.



As an integral part = of the=20 easement acquisition process, the boundary of the easement area and = right of=20 access must be delineated in a manner that is suitable for recording. = The exact=20 recording requirements will vary from state to state.  At a minimum, state code must = be=20 followed.  Recording = requirements=20 can be determined by contacting the State Attorney General=92s Office or = the local=20 County = Registrar of Land = Records.=20  State land management = agencies may=20 be able to assist in determining these requirements.  NRCS is expected to work = closely with=20 the Regional OGC to ensure that the procedure ultimately pursued is=20 sufficient.


The GRP conservation = easement=20 deed includes a legal description and must meet the requirements of the = state=20 and county recording statutes where the easement will be filed. The = description=20 of the easement area and right of access is attached to the GRP = conservation=20 easement deed as an exhibit.  = The=20 survey of the easement boundary is:


  1. Recorded in a legally acceptable form under state = law;=20


  1. Clearly evident to the landowner and to the entity = involved in=20 subsequent monitoring and enforcement activities;


  1. In a=20 form that makes it possible to locate the boundary (e.g., corners, = ingress,=20 and egress) at a future time even where the boundary markers have been = removed=20 or where there is disagreement regarding placement of the markers; and =


  1. Clear=20 regarding the right of access (or ingress and egress route), to the = easement=20 area. 


Knowing exactly where = the=20 enrolled acres are located will assist NRCS with its monitoring and = management=20 responsibilities to protect the federal property investment.  Digitized boundaries will be = transmitted=20 quarterly to the National Cartographic and Geospatial Data Center = (NCGC).  These digital layers will, in=20 combination with others, support local, regional, and national program=20 management and ecosystem planning. =20 NCGC will load these digital layers into the national = conservation=20 planning data base.


The legal description = needed to=20 purchase an easement must be based on a standard land survey, rectangle = survey=20 system, Global Positioning System, or other acceptable methods.  NRCS will verify legally = acceptable=20 survey methods for their state with their Regional OGC. When based on a = land=20 survey, the surveyor must be licensed and registered in the state in = which the=20 survey is performed. The easement boundary description shall be clear, = accurate,=20 complete, and meet the NRCS=92s intent.


The survey is ordered = after the=20 APCE has been signed by = the=20 landowner and NRCS, using an appropriate procurement method, and funds = will be=20 obligated to the procurement document for the surveys.  It is recommended that states = use a=20 Blanket Purchase Agreement or Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity = type=20 arrangement.  See Chapter = 6 part 3=20 for funding and payment process.


In some cases it may = be more cost=20 effective for the landowner to secure the survey.  If this option is used, the = landowner=20 must secure a written bid for the survey from a state certified and = licensed=20 professional surveyor that is based on the specifications provided by = NRCS.  This bid is to be provided to = NRCS prior=20 to NRCS signing the APCE.  =


When the boundary = description is=20 complete, NRCS, the landowner, and the surveyor (if applicable) will = meet and=20 ensure that the area delineated was the area that the landowner intended = to=20 place under the easement; the area delineated was the area flagged by = NRCS; the=20 access right of way is accurate and sufficient; and permanent markers = have been=20 installed as required.  = The meeting=20 will be documented by memorandum to the file.  NRCS will review the survey = description=20 to ensure it accurately and correctly describes the area of = enrollment.


When the survey has = been accepted=20 as properly completed and accurate, NRCS will document in the case file = any=20 changes to the easement compensation based upon the final surveyed = acreage.   The State program = manager will=20 amend the APCE and provide a copy to FSA to ensure that the obligation = will be=20 adjusted as necessary.  =



Upon completion of = the boundary=20 description, NRCS will complete a baseline inventory report, which will = serve as=20 Exhibit B of the GRP conservation easement deed.   This report will verify = that the=20 characteristics, current use, and status of improvements on the property = at the=20 date of the agreement are recorded to assure that any future changes in = the use=20 of the property will be consistent with the terms of the easement.  Information collected during = the=20 development of the baseline inventory report may be used to update the = GRP=20 management plan.


The baseline = inventory report is=20 required for all conservation easements. =20 It documents the conservation values, characteristics, current = use, water=20 rights, and improvements on the date of the easement.  It must be signed and = acknowledged as=20 accurate by NRCS and the landowner, and attached to, and maintained with = the GRP=20 easement file at the NRCS state office. =20 Baseline reports include photographs, description of the plant = community,=20 and other physical characteristics of the land such as soils, = topography,=20 presence of noxious weeds and invasive species.  It identifies any critical = nesting=20 habitat for declining populations of grassland dependent birds and all = physical=20 structures and improvements, including barns, sheds, corrals, fences, = ponds,=20 watering facilities, and roads.


The baseline = documentation report=20 will be used by NRCS to assure that any future changes in the use of the = property is consistent with the terms of the easement.  It documents the current = condition of=20 grassland resources, and references the GRP management plan for any = planned=20 restoration, but it does not preclude the use of other evidence to = establish the=20 condition of the property at the time the easement was conveyed.


Part 2 Easement=20 Closing



Closing agents will be required to = submit an=20 American Land Title Association (ALTA) Closing Protection Letter or its=20 equivalent.  ALTA Title = Insurance on=20 the U.S. ALTA 9/28/91 policy form will be acquired on all easements, = including=20 the ingress/egress routes.  = The=20 closing agent shall ensure that title insurance is acquired from a = source=20 qualified and authorized by law to issue title insurance policies, and = is=20 approved by the State Insurance Commissioner or equivalent, in the state = in=20 which the land is located.


Title insurance may be acquired by = Federal=20 contract, interagency agreements, or other methods as determined=20 appropriate.  Costs for = title=20 insurance will not exceed what is considered fair and reasonable.  Prior to issuing title = insurance, the=20 title insurance company will issue a title commitment binder.  The title commitment binder = results from=20 a title search lists exceptions to clear title, and binds the company to = issue a=20 final title policy.  The = title=20 commitment binder provides information for the execution of the = Certificate of=20 Use and Consent, NRCS-LTP-23,=20 actions the landowner must take to resolve exceptions and provide clear = title,=20 preparation of the Conservation Easement Deed, and preparation of any = necessary=20 Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien Waiver forms.


The title insurance policy will be = written=20 for the full amount of the easement acquisition payment or as provided = by the=20 Department of Justice in its Standards for the Preparation of Title = Evidence in=20 Land Acquisitions by the United States. =20 The United States of America, by and through the Secretary of=20 Agriculture, will be the insured.



Upon receipt of the title = commitment=20 binder, NRCS shall complete the Certificate of Use and Consent with=20 recommendations on those exceptions on title commitment binder that are=20 acceptable to NRCS and those exceptions on title commitment binder that = are not=20 acceptable to NRCS and must be resolved by the landowner before easement = can be=20 recorded.  The = Conservation Easement=20 Deed and Subordination and Limited Lien Waiver(s) AD-1158, will be prepared = based on=20 information received on the title insurance commitment binder, the = Certificate=20 of Use and Consent, easement boundary and ingress/egress descriptions, = and=20 appraisal, if required.  = Special=20 provisions may only be inserted in the Conservation Easement Deed for = unique=20 legal issues, as determined necessary by the National GRP Manager and = OGC.  



Unless the local OGC specifies = otherwise=20 copies of the following documents will be assembled and transmitted to = the OGC=20 Regional Attorney for issuance of a preliminary title opinion:

    Statement certifying landowner = eligibility;=20 Unexecuted Conservation Easement Deed;=20 Unexecuted Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien = Waiver(s),=20 as appropriate;=20 Boundary description of the easement area and = ingress/egress=20 route (e.g., GPS and survey);=20 Map of easement area and ingress/egress = route;=20 Preliminary Certification of Inspection and = Possession with=20 attachments; Certificate of Use and Consent with = attachments;=20 Title Commitment Binder with copies of previously = recorded=20 documents;=20 Executed Agreement for the Purchase of a = Conservation=20 Easement; and Other pertinent documents as requested by OGC, such = as water=20 rights if applicable.


The OGC Regional = Attorney will=20 review the easement package and issue a preliminary title opinion and=20 instructions.  The = preliminary title=20 opinion will list exceptions to clear title, if any, which must be = resolved=20 prior to recording the easement and making payment to the = landowner.  OGC will provide closing = instructions=20 and authorize recording of easement and subsequent payment to the = landowner.



Upon receipt of the preliminary = title=20 opinion from OGC, NRCS will issue closing instructions to the closing = agent and=20 provide a copy of the OGC preliminary title opinion to local NRCS = office.  If an escrow account will be = used for=20 closing, then NRCS will order the easement funds disbursed no more than = 7 days=20 prior to closing.  The = closing agent=20 will:

a.   =20 Acknowledge receipt of easement funds if=20 appropriate;

b.  =20 Acknowledge closing instructions, including OGC=20 preliminary title opinion, and submit estimate of closing costs if=20 appropriate;

c.   =20 Contact landowner to set closing date and = receive=20 landowner's closing instructions;

d.   = Ensure=20 that the landowner resolves all exceptions to clear title;

e.   =20 Secure all required signatures, including NRCS, = on=20 Conservation Easement Deed and Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien=20 Waiver(s);

f.   =20 Record the easement and other supporting = documents =96=20 Conservation Easement Deed with easement boundary and ingress/egress=20 descriptions attached and Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien=20 Waiver(s);

g.   = Pay=20 recording fees;

h.   = Order=20 final title insurance policy; and

i.     = Transmit the original recorded easement = documents,=20 invoice for recording fees and closing services, and Final Title = Insurance=20 Policy to NRCS.


Upon receipt of the recorded = documents=20 from the closing agent, NRCS will execute the final Certificate of = Inspection=20 and Possession to verify that nothing has changed concerning the = condition of=20 the enrolled land and that the ownership has not changed.  Payment will be processed by = FSA to the=20 closing agent for the closing services and fees.


Upon receipt of the final title = insurance=20 policy NRCS will transmit copies of the recorded easement documents, = final title=20 insurance policy, and the final Certificate of Inspection and Possession = to the=20 OGC Regional Attorney.  = The OGC=20 Regional Attorney will review the recorded easement documents, final = title=20 insurance policy, and Final Certificate of Inspection and Possession, = and issue=20 a final title opinion.

The term =93closing agent=94 refers to = title=20 companies, escrow companies, qualified private attorneys, abstracters, = or=20 federal employees familiar with the preparation of such evidence in the=20 jurisdiction in which the lands are situated, that conduct activities = for NRCS=20 associated with the execution and recordation of the GRP conservation = easement=20 deed.  These activities = include:

a.   Obtaining title = commitment binder=20 and title insurance;

b.   Obtaining signatures on = the GRP=20 conservation easement deed;

c.   Obtaining signatures on=20 Subordination Agreement and Limited Lien Waiver(s) (AD-1158);

d.   Working with landowners = to clear=20 title defects to the property that are unacceptable to NRCS;

e.   Completing IRS form = 1099;

f.    Recording GRP = conservation=20 easements and other documents;

g.   Disbursing escrow funds; = and

h.   Other functions as = necessary or=20 which may be required by state law to finalize the GRP conservation = easement=20 transaction.

NRCS will work with the Regional OGC to = develop a=20 work order for acquiring closing agents. =20 OGC will ensure that the work order lists all necessary closing = agent=20 qualifications and conditions such as Errors and Omissions insurance, = and=20 identify closing agent responsibilities and to develop closing=20 instructions.  NRCS will = ensure that=20 the closing agent is qualified and certified by law to perform the = required=20 services in the state in which the land lies and is experienced, = financially=20 responsible, and reputable.

Closing agent services may be = acquired by=20 federal contract, interagency agreements, or other methods as determined = appropriate.  Costs for = closing=20 services will not exceed what is considered fair and reasonable.  Funds for the closing services = will not=20 be obligated to each individual application.  Closing services will be = secured either=20 through FSA or using the payment process in Chapter 6.  


Part 3 Easement Title Transfer to = Third=20 Parties


NRCS may transfer = title of=20 ownership of an easement to an approved private conservation or land = trust=20 organization or State agency with the consent or written request of the=20 landowner and upon a determination by the Chief of NRCS that transfer of = the=20 easement will promote protection of the grassland.  Such entities must be a = qualified=20 organization that the NRCS Chief determines has the appropriate = authority,=20 knowledge, and resources necessary to assume title ownership of the = easement.=20 They must also be able to assume the costs incurred in administering and = enforcing the easement, including the costs of restoration or = rehabilitation of=20 the land to the extent that such restoration or rehabilitation is = carried out=20 according to the program requirements by following the GRP management = plan and=20 restoration agreement. Any additional restoration must be consistent = with the=20 purposes of the easement. Should an easement be transferred, all = warranties and=20 indemnifications provided to the United States in the GRP conservation = easement=20 deed shall continue to apply. Subsequent to the transfer of an easement, = the=20 easement holder shall be responsible for grazing management planning and = implementation and will adhere to the FOTG for maintaining the viability = of=20 grassland and other conservation values.


A private = organization or state=20 agency that seeks to hold title to a GRP conservation easement must = apply to the=20 NRCS State Conservationist for approval. The NRCS State Conservationist = shall=20 consult with FSA State Executive Director prior to rendering its = determination.=20 For a private organization to be qualified to be an easement holder, the = private=20 organization must:


  1. Be=20 organized as required by 28 U.S.C. =A7 501(c) (3) of the Internal = Revenue Code=20 of 1986 or be controlled by an organization described in section 28 = U.S.C. =A7=20 509(a) (2).


  1. Provide evidence to the NRCS State Conservationist = that it has=20 relevant experience necessary to administer grassland and shrubland = easements,=20 a charter that describes the commitment of the private organization to = conserving ranchland, agricultural land, or grassland for grazing and=20 conservation purposes, the human and financial resources necessary to=20 effectuate the purposes of the charter, and sufficient financial = resources to=20 carry out easement administrative and enforcement activities. =


NRCS = has the=20 right to conduct periodic inspections and enforce the easement and = associated=20 restoration agreement for any easements transferred.  In the event that the easement = holder=20 fails to enforce the terms of the easement, the NRCS shall have the = right to=20 enforce the terms of this easement through any and all authorities = available=20 under federal or state law.  = Due to=20 the federal interest in the GRP conservation easement, the easement = interest=20 cannot be condemned.


Chapter 6 Payment=20 Process

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


The 2008 Farm Bill = requires 40=20 percent of GRP funds be used to acquire rental contracts and 60 percent = be used=20 to acquire easements on a national basis. =20 This requirement is managed by NRCS EPD on a national level. 


FSA is responsible = for funds=20 control, which includes making payments for rental contracts and = purchase of=20 easements. NRCS will contract and pay vendors for needed services = related to=20 easement acquisition.  All = rental=20 contract and easement purchase payments will be made by FSA.  NRCS will notify FSA using the = AD-1161=20 of the amount and payee for each easement purchase, including those made = through=20 cooperative agreements.




Payments made under = one or more=20 rental contacts to a person or legal entity, directly or indirectly, may = not=20 exceed $50,000 per year.  = This same=20 limitation applies to restoration agreements.  The participant can receive = $50,000 for=20 rental contracts and $50,000 for restoration agreements.  This payment limitation does = not apply=20 to rental agreements or restoration agreements approved and obligated = prior to=20 January 21, 2009.



A fund obligation = occurs when the=20 APCE, cooperative agreement or rental contract is signed by the = participant and=20 a CCC representative, after all eligibility requirements have been = met.  The NRCS State Conservationist = or=20 his/her delegate shall sign the APCE or cooperative agreement for GRP=20 conservation easement purchases, and restoration agreement, if = applicable.   The FSA County Committe = shall sign=20 the rental contract after all eligibility requirements have been met = (this=20 authority can be delegated to the CED). =20


GRP funds are single = year funds=20 and any funds not obligated cannot be carried over into another fiscal=20 year.  No obligations will = be made=20 by FSA until signatures from the landowner and NRCS State = Conservationist are=20 secured on the APCE, cooperative agreement or restoration agreements for = GRP=20 conservation easements.  = No=20 obligations will be made until landowner or operator and FSA signatures = are=20 secured on rental contracts.  =


Funds will be held at = NRCS=20 National Headquarters to cover necessary easement due diligence = contracts such=20 as environmental database records searches, preliminary title work, = surveys,=20 appraisals or area wide market surveys. =20 State program managers, with pre-approved easement applications = to be=20 held by the United States, should estimate the amount necessary to = contract due=20 diligence services and request funds using an Allowance/Performance = Adjustment=20 Sheet. Funds will be transferred to NRCS to contract these = services.  States may use national = Blanket Purchase=20 Agreements or individual contract to order services.  Eligible entities will pay for = all of=20 these administrative costs when the easement is to be acquired through a = cooperative agreement.



NRCS shall submit = requests to=20 obligate funds in writing, to FSA using the APCE or a cooperative = agreement,=20 signed by the applicant or eligible entity and NRCS.  GRP conservation easement = obligations=20 must be recorded in the System 36 as soon as the APCE or cooperative = agreement=20 is signed by the applicant and NRCS and returned from NRCS. Funds must = be=20 allocated to the county and those allocations recorded before easement=20 obligations are recorded.


The AGI flag is read = from the=20 farm record. The application may be recorded whether the

AGI flag is =93Y=94 = or =93N=94. Any=20 producer who has an =93N=94 in the AGI flag will need to have an AGI = determination=20 made before the easement can be approved. =20 The =93Primary Producer=94 field allows the user to designate = whether this=20 producer is the primary producer on the application or not.


The =93Description = and Location of=20 Farm, Ranch, or Other Unit=94 field allows the user to enter a = description of the=20 offered land. This is a required entry if the offered land does not have = a farm=20 number. A farm number is not required for the application. However, if = an=20 application is selected for approval and the land does not have a farm = number,=20 the County=20 Office shall = establish a=20 farm number for the offered land.


NRCS will notify FSA = using an=20 AD-1161, Application for Payment Form for payment for GRP easements. The = District Conservationist or NRCS representative must review and sign = this form=20 before FSA will make payment.  =   Payments will be made to = closing=20 agents for GRP easements purchased through cooperative agreements.  Closing agents must complete = electronic=20 fund transfer (EFT) and SF-1199A forms in order to receive payments from = FSA.



GRP rental contract = obligations=20 must be recorded in the System 36 as soon as the CCC-920 is signed by = the=20 producer and FSA County Executive Director. Funds must be allocated to = the=20 county and those allocations recorded before rental contract obligations = are=20 recorded.


The AGI flag is read = from the=20 farm record. The application may be recorded whether the

AGI flag is =93Y=94 = or =93N=94. Any=20 producer who has an =93N=94 in the AGI flag will need to have an AGI = determination=20 made before the contract can be approved. =20 The =93Primary Producer=94 field allows the user to designate = whether this=20 producer is the primary producer on the application or not.


Payments to = participants for=20 rental contracts will be made in annual payments within 15 days after = the=20 anniversary date of the contract (which is the date the County = Committee or County Committee=20 Representative approved the CCC-920). The 15 days wil = begin on the=20 first business dayafter the anniversary date.  Rental payments will be paid = to the=20 original participant unless FSA receives an assignment of payment.  GRP rental payments are due = the day=20 after the 1-year anniversary date. =20 County=20 Offices shall run = the=20 CCC-920 Annual Payments Due This Month Report at the beginning of each = month=20 before making payments.  =


The =93Description = and Location of=20 Farm, Ranch, or Other Unit=94 field allows the user to enter a = description of the=20 offered land. This is a required entry if the offered land does not have = a farm=20 number. A farm number is not required for the application. However, if = an=20 application is selected for approval and no farm number has been = assigned to the=20 land, the County=20 Office shall = establish a=20 farm number for the offered land.


When a restoration = practice is=20 added for an rental contract, the money is obligated on the CCC ledger = and CCC-1245=92s can be = processed for the=20 practice. 



Cost share payments = associated=20 with rental contracts or GRP easements held by the United=20 States will be paid within 30 days upon = certification from NRCS using an AD-1161, Application for = Payment Form.=20 The District Conservationist or NRCS representative must review and sign = this=20 form before FSA will make payment. FSA will create and pay cost share = using FSA=20 Form, CCC-1245 and = attaching NRCS=20 form, AD-1161 to document certification of payment. Cost share payments = will not=20 be made for practices implemented or initiated prior to approval unless = the NRCS=20 State Conservationist grants a written waiver, in advance. Cost share = will be=20 50% of actual cost. 



a.      =20 Paying Expenses.  FSA County Offices shall = process the=20 administrative expense payment by technical practice code.  Technical practices codes = added to the=20 CCC county eligibility table are:

801 - Annual rental contract

802 - Easement payment

803 =96 Restoration cost share


b.     =20 Prompt Payment Act Provisions.  GRP rental payments are = subject to the=20 Prompt Payment Act.  The = payment due=20 date is 30 calendar days after USDA receives all the information needed = to issue=20 payment.


c.      =20 Payment Ineligibility.  Persons applying for the GRP = shall be=20 ineligible to participate or receive payment if they are determined to = be in=20 violation under the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation = provisions of=20 the Food Security Act, as amended. Payments during the Highly Erodible = Land and=20 Wetland Conservation period cannot be earned.  When the person regains = eligibility=20 status under the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation = provisions, the=20 person can be eligible to participate in GRP. 


d.     =20 USDA Debt Register.  The NRCS State Conservationist = shall=20 coordinate with the FSA State Executive Director to determine if a GRP=20 participant is currently on the County Claim Control Record as being = indebted to=20 the government. Offset of payments may be necessary to relieve the=20 indebtedness.  This = determination=20 must be made prior to making any payment to the participant. FSA will = provide=20 the debt register to NRCS.


e.      =20 IRS 1099 Reporting.  The closing agent will prepare = and issue=20 all IRS 1099 forms to program participants receiving GRP easement funds, = unless=20 directed to pay the landowner directly by OGC.  NRCS will prepare and issue = all IRS 1099=20 forms to service vendors for easement due diligence services.  FSA will prepare and issue all = IRS 1099=20 forms to program participants and all others receiving GRP funds. 



The landowner(s), = NRCS, and FSA=20 must agree on the payment option. Payment will be made to the original = landowner=20 (i.e., owner at the time of easement purchase) unless NRCS or FSA = receives an=20 assignment of proceeds from the original landowner to a successor in = title or=20 some other party on an Assignment of Payments form CCC-36.  Payments to landowners for GRP = conservation easements can be in lump sum, or at the request of the = landowner,=20 made annually, in equal or unequal amounts, for up to 10 years. 

Chapter 7=20 Restoration=20 Agreements

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


Restoration agreements, if applicable, = can only=20 be used in conjunction with an easement or rental contract.  The NRCS, working through the=20 Conservation Districts and with participants, will determine if a = restoration=20 agreement is necessary.  A = restoration agreement will be required when grassland and shrubland = functions=20 and values are inadequate to meet the purposes of GRP.  Grasslands that are degraded = or have=20 been converted to another use require restoration.  The restoration agreement will = identify=20 conservation practices and measures necessary to restore or improve the=20 grassland and shrubland functions and values. If concurrence between = NRCS and=20 the participants on the need for a restoration agreement is not reached, = the=20 participant will not be eligible for the program.



Applicants may apply for a restoration = agreement=20 by completing the Long Term Agreement (AD-1154). The applicant must show the need for = restoration at the time of application for the program on the = Conservation Plan=20 Schedule of Operations (AD-1155) for easements and for rental = contracts, and=20 agree to maintain all funded conservation practices and activities. =



The duration of a restoration = agreement will be=20 no more than 3 years to cover the installation and establishment of = needed=20 practices. The NRCS State Conservationist, with advice from the State = Technical=20 Committee, may approve restoration agreements for longer periods of time = but not=20 longer than the terms of the rental contracts.  



Participating partners may provide = financial=20 assistance or in-kind services. =20 Partner contributions may be considered as the participant's = share of the=20 costs.  Alternative = sources of=20 funding used for restoration will be documented on the AD-1161, Application for Payment.  Federal cost sharing shall not = exceed 50=20 percent of the total actual cost of restoration. The participant cannot = receive=20 cost share from more than one federal cost-share program for the same=20 conservation practice.  = Payments may=20 not exceed $50,000 per year to a person or legal entity.


Cost-share payments for restoration = may be made=20 as practices are completed after the easement is recorded or rental = contract=20 approved.   These = provisions do=20 not prevent participants from receiving funds available from other = public or=20 private sources.  The = contributed=20 funds may be considered as the participant=92s contribution to the = practice.  Participants entering into = rental=20 contracts are not eligible for cost-share assistance for practices = initiated=20 before the rental contract is approved and funded. Landowners may be = eligible=20 for cost-share assistance for practices initiated before an easement is = recorded=20 providing:


  1. The APCE or rental contract is = signed and=20 funds have been obligated for the project;


  1. The restoration work is completed in = accordance with an approved restoration agreement; and  


  1. The landowner understands that = he/she assumes=20 risk when initiating a practice before the easement is filed. =


The landowner files a signed statement = stating:=20 =93I/We acknowledge that the implementation of grassland/shrubland = restoration=20 practices on the land enrolled in GRP is at my/our own risk and that = my/our=20 ability to receive GRP cost-share assistance is contingent upon the = easement=20 being recorded and NRCS determining that the practice(s) are established = according to NRCS specifications. =20 I/We further understand that I/we are responsible for obtaining = all=20 necessary Federal, State, and local authorizations and permits needed to = implement such grassland/shrubland restoration activities=94.


Landowners are ineligible for = cost-share=20 assistance if the easement does not get recorded. The practice is not=20 established to NRCS specifications or the intended acreage is determined = ineligible for program participation.



NRCS will provide technical assistance = to the=20 participant through the life of the restoration agreement with the goal = of=20 ensuring that the grassland and shrubland functions and values are = sufficient=20 for the life of the contract.  = Both=20 technical and financial assistance may be involved. NRCS shall conduct = periodic=20 reviews of the easements and rental contracts to determine the success = of=20 restoration plans.  =



A restoration plan shall be developed = and will=20 include both vegetative and structural practices (as needed) as well as=20 management requirements needed to improve and maintain grassland and = shrubland=20 resources. A timeline for implementation of these practices will be = included.=20 Restoration activities will begin within one year of the easement = recording, or=20 rental contract approval, and be completed within three years.  


Restoration of the native plant = community is=20 desirable but not required.  = A=20 naturalized plant community may provide functional equivalence for = ecological=20 properties (Refer to local Ecological Site Descriptions, Forage = Suitability=20 Groups, or other State approved sources of plant adaptability and plant=20 community technical information contained in or referenced in the Field = Office=20 Technical Guide).  = Existing, healthy=20 plant communities which include introduced species are not required to = be=20 reseeded to native grass and shrub species.  However, if there is a need to = seed, the=20 site will be planted based on the following:


  1. Ability to provide grassland and or = shrubland=20 functions and values;


  1. Value to the participant=92s forage = or grazing=20 system;


  1. Availability of seed and/or planting = materials;


  1. Ability to establish and maintain = adequate=20 cover without additional chemical inputs;


  1. Accordance with local Field Office = Technical=20 Guide recommendations;


  1. Anticipated needs of wildlife and = species of=20 significant value; and


  1. Likelihood of off-site proliferation = where the=20 plants are not wanted.


Sites must be capable of restoration = to a=20 self-sustaining level. Adverse off-site or on-site conditions that = preclude=20 successful restoration may render the site ineligible for GRP.  Adverse conditions may = include, but are=20 not limited to hazardous wastes, excess salinity, severe erosion, storm = sewer=20 effluent, feedlot or septic system outlets, and public drainage rights = that=20 would make restoration impracticable.



NRCS, working through the Conservation = District=20 and with the participant, will determine the terms of the restoration = agreement.=20 Eligible restoration practices include land management, vegetative, and=20 structural practices and measures that maintain and improve the = grassland and=20 shrubland functions and values.  = The=20 NRCS State Conservationist, with advice from the State Technical = Committee, will=20 determine the conservation practices and measures that will be available = for=20 restoration agreements. All restoration practices and measures are = eligible for=20 cost sharing.  Management = practices=20 are eligible if the participant is changing or implementing new types of = management (i.e. first time rotational grazing, first time livestock = producer).=20 Conservation practices identified and installed through the restoration = plan=20 must meet NRCS standards and specifications in accordance with the FOTG. =



Eligible practices include land = management,=20 vegetative, and structural practices and measures that will maintain, = improve=20 and restore the grassland and shrubland functions and values. These = eligible=20 practices include, but are not limited to:


a.      =20 Grassland, rangeland and shrubland vegetative = practices=20 for vegetative restoration with an emphasis on native vegetation except = where=20 the NRCS State Conservationist determines that, due to site conditions = or=20 unavailability of native seed, it is impractical;


b.     =20 Grassland, rangeland and shrubland vegetative = practices=20 for renovation when necessary to increase forage, habitat, biodiversity = for=20 declining populations of grassland dependent bird and = animals;


c.      =20 Cross-fencing when necessary to improve forage = viability=20 or to maintain, enhance or restore riparian areas in order to enhance or = maintain wildlife habitat and improve water quality;


d.     =20 Boundary fencing for land exiting CRP when the = fence is=20 an integral part of the grazing management system;


(1)   = The=20 fence is an integral part of the grazing system that facilitated = improved=20 management of grazing land, or protects certain areas from livestock = when it is=20 necessary for proper use of the area;


(2)   = The=20 fence is an integral part of the grazing management system that will = result in=20 maintaining permanent cover;


(3)   = The=20 fence relates to the protection, restoration, development, or = enhancement of=20 habitat for prioritized wildlife, such as fencing a riparian area to = exclude=20 livestock.


e.      =20 Watering facilities for both domestic animals = and=20 wildlife;


f.      =20 Streambank stabilization; and


g.     =20 Erosion control.



When a = participant=20 requests to enhance the grassland or shrubland beyond the program = objectives and=20 goals and request the 50 percent of actual total cost-share payment, = NRCS will=20 determine if the conservation action requested is clearly beyond the = level=20 needed at the present, or any time in the future, and the request will = be=20 denied.



During=20 the application process, if it is determined, that restoration is = required; a=20 Preliminary Restoration Plan will be developed.  The purpose of the plan is=20 to:


  1. Provide the participant with an=20 understanding of the project=92s anticipated scope and effect, = including=20 estimated costs;


  1. Provide information to NRCS on = the extent=20 and costs of the conservation practices;


  1. Provide information for ranking=20 purposes;


  1. Identify grasslands and = shrublands to be=20 restored and improved and any unique project characteristics and the=20 associated management needs;


  1. Identify conservation systems = and the=20 estimated practice costs;


  1. Provide a benchmark description = of present=20 condition of the resources;


  1. Identify management = needs;=20


  1. Identify grassland and shrubland = benefits=20 to be obtained;


  1. Identify any partner = contributions, to=20 include funding and in-kind services;


  1. Identify any unique = qualifications that=20 the NRCS State Conservationist with advice from the State Technical = Committee=20 should consider that are not captured in the quantitative ranking = criteria=20 that may justify priority for enrollment; and


  1. Identify any unusual = complexities that may=20 reduce the desirability of the site.


The=20 content and format of the Preliminary Restoration Plan will be = established by=20 the NRCS State Conservationist with advice from the State Technical = Committee to=20 address specific needs in the State. =20 As a minimum, the Preliminary Restoration Plan shall consist of a = list of=20 practices, the estimated extent of the practices required to restore the = grassland and shrublands functions and values, and the estimated costs. =  The planning effort in = completing the=20 final details of the plan should be minimized until the application has = been=20 approved for funding. To insure the participant has an understanding of = the=20 scope of the restoration agreement upon application to the program, the=20 participant will receive a copy of the GRP Restoration Cost-Share = Agreement, and=20 GRP Restoration Cost-Share Agreement Violations.


A site=20 evaluation will be conducted to determine site-specific conditions that = will=20 influence the unique design and installation of essential and = supplemental=20 treatment practices or measures. The intensity of this site analysis = will be=20 commensurate with the complexity of the site and objectives of the=20 GRP.



NRCS will work cooperatively with the=20 participant and other conservation partners, as needed, to restore = native and=20 naturalized plant communities to their optimum functions and = values.  The intent will be to select = restoration=20 practices that will minimize the necessity for ongoing inputs of = fertilizer,=20 frequent reseeding, etc. The restoration plan must be consistent with = resource=20 conservation planning requirements found in National Planning Procedures = Handbook and the National Range and Pasture Handbook, = focus on=20 providing for optimum grassland and shrubland benefits, be implemented = according=20 to the local Field Office Technical Guide, identify how the grassland = and=20 shrubland functions and values will be restored, improved, protected, = and=20 include necessary grazing management guidelines. 


The final restoration plan will = include both=20 vegetative and structural practices (as needed) after the = participant=92s=20 application is approved.  = The=20 Conservation Plan Schedule of Operations, will be used to document and = record=20 the Final Restoration Plan.  = The=20 NRCS State Conservationist will establish a process to insure that final = restoration plans achieve program goals and objectives, comply with = National=20 Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act and National = Historic=20 Preservation Act, reflect the actual installation of practices and = measures, and=20 include grazing management guidelines.


In addition to elements contained in = the=20 preliminary restoration plan, the first practice should be scheduled = within one=20 year of filing the easement, approving the rental contract, or approving = the=20 restoration agreement, and will consist of the following:


  1. Objectives of restoration; =


  1. Description of the grassland and = shrubland=20 functions and values being restored, including any unique = habitat;=20


  1. Description of practices required = for=20 restoration and management of the site such as seeding plans, = accelerating and=20 facilitating practices (i.e.: fencing, prescribed burning, = etc.).=20


  1. Schedule of dates for implementing = practices=20 and measures;


  1. Practice costs, and partner = contributions of=20 at least 50 percent;


  1. Restoration plan map, = including:=20


(1)   = Field=20 numbers;


(2)  =20 Boundaries of the easement, rental, or agreement = area;


(3)   = Acres=20 of the easement, rental, or restoration agreement area;


(4)   = Planned=20 and existing practices;


(5)   = Land=20 uses as needed;


(6)  =20 Restored grasslands and shrublands, and other=20 lands;


(7)   = Access=20 routes and any utility locations; and


(8)  =20 Cultural resource locations if = applicable.


  1. Photographs that document site = conditions=20 before; during; and after restoration (Photo points recorded with = date,=20 location, GPS coordinates, photographer, appropriate agreement number = and=20 client name on a map of the easement or agreement area); =


  1. Identification and assessment of = potential=20 effects that any public drainage rights may have on the effected = easement or=20 agreement area;


  1. Documentation required for = application of the=20 required practices and measures, including job sheets and engineering = designs,=20 noxious weeds and invasive species, and pest control strategies, if = needed;=20 and


  1. Plan for the installation of = boundary markers=20 or signs on easement and rental contract areas.



The participant is responsible for = maintenance=20 and management of all practices and measures implemented in a = restoration=20 agreement.  All costs = involved in=20 maintenance of fences, watering facilities, and similar facilities shall = be the=20 responsibility of the participant. =20 In the case of replacement costs not due to the participant=92s = negligence=20 or malfeasance, or if a practice has exceeded its lifespan, replacement=20 practices may be eligible for cost-share through a restoration = agreement, as=20 determined by the NRCS State Conservationist with advice from the State=20 Technical Committee.


NRCS will verify compliance with = permitting=20 requirements before the completion of the final design and the start of=20 implementation of a GRP project.  = The participant is responsible for noxious weed control, invasive = species=20 control and emergency control of pests as, required by all federal, = state and=20 local laws.    




The National Environmental Policy Act = does not=20 require an assessment if only entering into a rental contract or = purchasing an=20 easement.  However, an = Environmental=20 Assessment will be completed by NRCS if restoration practices are = planned with=20 federal assistance.  = States shall=20 review the National Environmental Assessment and if it is not adequate = to cover=20 State activities, States shall conduct a state programmatic = Environmental=20 Assessment to cover the practices that will be contained in the = Restoration=20 Agreements.  If = restoration=20 activities could impact threatened or endangered species, NRCS shall = consult=20 with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


The purchase of a GRP conservation = easement from=20 a landowner or entering into a rental contract with a participant, in = and of=20 itself, does not require consultation as a Federal undertaking for = purposes of=20 compliance with section 106 of the NHPA. =20 However, when NRCS plans to perform restoration activities on a = GRP=20 conservation easement or rental contract that will result in a direct = physical=20 change on a specific site, (i.e., an undertaking with the potential to = affect=20 historic properties) NRCS field personnel shall adhere to the same = Section 106=20 compliance procedures (as defined in the implementing regulations, 36 = CFR Part=20 800 and NRCS policy found at GM Title 420, Part 401) required for other NRCS assisted=20 projects.  Additionally, = NRCS does=20 not assume federal land management responsibilities under section 110 of = the=20 NHPA, the Native American Graves Protection or Repatriation Act = (NAGPRA), or the=20 Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).


Chapter 8 Monitoring, Compliance = and=20 Enforcement

1.  =20 OVERVIEW


With the acquisition of a GRP = conservation=20 easement or the execution of a GRP rental contract, USDA has made a = long-term=20 commitment to the protection, conservation and restoration of grassland=20 resources on private lands.  = And=20 although the landowner or operator retains management responsibility of = the=20 resource under the GRP conservation easement or rental contract, the = agencies=20 have the responsibility to protect the federal investment. =20


This subpart provides guidance on=20 monitoring, compliance and enforcement issues on GRP conservation = easements held=20 by the United States, and rental contracts.  NRCS is responsible for the=20 administration, monitoring and enforcement of easements, and for the = monitoring=20 on rental contracts.  FSA = is=20 responsible for the administration and enforcement of rental = contracts.  =20



NRCS is responsible for = administration,=20 monitoring and enforcement responsibilities for all GRP easements held = by the=20 United States. NRCS has authority to provide technical and financial = assistance=20 for management on existing easements. =20 NRCS will provide assistance for implementing and establishing=20 conservation practices, components, measures and activities = necessary.  NRCS may contract or obtain = assistance=20 through vendors, partners or other agencies using appropriate methods, = including=20 but not limited to the=20 following:=


a.      =20 Federal contracts, such as blanket purchase = agreements,=20 indefinite quanity and indefinite deliversy contracts, or cost type=20 contracts;=


b.     =20 Agreements as permitted through the=20 Federal Grants and Cooperative = Agreements=20 Handbook,=20 Contribution Agreements=20 Handbook,=20 or other=20 NRCS National=20 Instruction.<= /SPAN>


FSA may not delegate its = administration or=20 enforcement=20 responsibilities.=


Part 1 Rental=20 Contract=20 Compliance



At least 10% of all active rental = contracts=20 within a State will be sampled in addition to any rental contracts with = USDA=20 employees or County Committee members.   The FSA National Office = will=20 generate a list of all rental contracts and randomly select 10% of all = active=20 rental contracts the state office and county offices will add any = required=20 spotchecks and provide this list to the NRCS by October 1st.  NRCS will conduct compliance = checks and=20 report to FSA COC any issues of non-compliance by August 1st.  The FSA County Office will be=20 responsible for contacting owners and operators and completing any = necessary=20 actions such as collection of penalties and interest based on NRCS=20 documentation.



NRCS, either directly or through a = contractual arrangement, will complete a compliance status review = (NRCS-LTP-31) with the participant and a COC=20 representative, if available. =20 Progress of the grazing practices shall be documented=20 including:


a.      =20 Implementation of the approved GRP management=20 plan;


b.     =20 Condition of installed practices, if applicable; = and


c.      =20 Need for revisions;


NRCS will provide COC signed = copies of the=20 annual status review.  If=20 practices  were not = established, or=20 do not meet design standards and specification, the report will explain = what=20 actions need to be taken and the estimated time needed to meet=20 compliance.


FSA County Offices shall file the = status=20 review copies and follow up on noncompliance cases.  Participatants will be = notified in=20 writing of noncompliance issues.  = The COC shall determine whether a participant who is in violation = of the=20 CCC-920 terms and conditions made a good faith effort to be = compliant.  Noncompliance cases shall be = handled=20 promptly before GRP rental payments are made for the year.



FSA will = notify=20 participant in writing of noncompliance issue according to 4-CP.  Noncompliance cases shall be = handled=20 promptly before GRP payments are made for the year. 

COC shall = determine=20 whether a participant who is in violation of CCC-920 terms and = conditions made a=20 good faith effort to comply.



COC shall = consider a=20 producer to be out of compliance if:


a.      =20 the approved cover has been harvested or other=20 commercial use has been made of the forage that doesn=92t comply with = the program=20 or GRP management plan;


b.     =20 an unauthorized crop, such as an agricultural = commodity,=20 has been planted on acreage under CCC-920;


c.      =20 producer conducted an activity on GRP acres = without=20 authorization, including unauthorized treatment, such as mowing, = spraying, or=20 burning of GRP during the primary nesting or brood rearing = season;


d.     =20 the approved cover has not been maintained = according to=20 the GRP management plan;


e.      =20 the producer has not performed required = management=20 activities according to the GRP management plan;


f.      =20 a satisfactory cover or a required practice has = not been=20 established or re-established within the time prescribed;


g.     =20 there has been a scheme or device that tends to = defeat=20 the program;


h.     =20 a false claim has been filed;


i.       =20 a violation of the terms and conditions of = CCC-920 has=20 occurred.



If COC = determines that=20 the participant made a good faith effort to comply with the terms and = conditions=20 of CCC-920 and a practice failed because of natural disaster or through = no fault=20 of the participant, then notify NRCS to revise the GRP management plan, = subject=20 to the availability of funds.  = If=20 noncompliance has occurred for reasons other than a practice failing = because of=20 natural disaster or through no fault of the participant, COC = shall:


a.      =20 assess a standard payment reduction on the = affected=20 acres not to exceed the annual rental payments for CCC-920 on which the=20 violation occurred  according to paragraph = 9.


b.     =20 advise the participant that subsequent = violations may=20 result in terminating CCC-920. =20


If = noncompliance=20 because of practice failure occurs after the fifth year of CCC-920, COC = may=20 determine whether the contract shall be continued without additional = cost share,=20 if a permanent cover has failed and adequate cover exists to prevent = erosion or=20 whether the contract will be terminated according to Chapter 4 paragraph = 25.


When = determining=20 whether to terminate CCC-920, COC shall consider factors, such as the = age of=20 CCC-920 and the cost-effectiveness of re-establishing the = practice.


Example: COC=20 terminates CCC-920 because, in the eighth year of CCC-920, the producer=20 inadvertently applied a herbicide that killed all ground = cover.



If COC = determines=20 there was not a good faith effort to comply with the terms and = conditions of=20 CCC-920 and the participant=92s request for termination of part of the = land under=20 CCC-920 was not approved, COC shall terminate all land under = CCC-920=20 according to Chapter 4 paragraph 25.


Example:=20 Participant has 100 acres enrolled in GRP in a 10 year rental = contract.=20 Participant requests to terminate part of the acres under CCC-920 to = return to=20 crop production. The request is not approved. Producer plants part of = the acres=20 under CCC-920 to corn. COC shall terminate all land (100 acres) under=20 CCC-920.


If COC = determines=20 there was not a good faith effort to comply with the terms and = conditions of=20 CCC-920 and there was no request to terminate part of the land under = CCC-920,=20 COC shall terminate only land in violation.


COC must determine there = is not a=20 good faith effort to comply with the terms and conditions of CCC-920 if=20 unauthorized planting or harvesting of a crop is discovered and producer = refuses=20 to destroy the crop.  If = the=20 unauthorized crop has already been sold or used by the time the = violation is=20 discovered, COC may determine the producer made a good faith effort to = comply=20 with the terms and conditions of CCC-920.



The = participant shall=20 be assessed payment reductions for unauthorized planting or harvesting = of a=20 crop, such as annually tilled crops, etc., acres in default times = current market=20 value times the lesser of the following:


a.      =20 Established yield for the crop times 2; = or


b.     =20 Actual yield for the crop times 2.


For = unauthorized=20 treatment not covered in the GRP management plan, such as mowing, = spraying, or=20 burning during the primary nesting or brood rearing season, the = participant=20 shall be assessed payment reductions equal to the annual rental payment = for the=20 acreage in violation.  = Standard=20 payment reductions shall not exceed the annual rental payments for = CCC-920 on=20 which the violation occurred.  = When=20 the violation results in termination of acres in violation, participants = shall=20 refund payments, according to Chapter 4 paragraph 26.


Part 2 GRP Conservation Easement=20 Monitoring



The purpose of = monitoring is to=20 ensure the landowner or operator adheres to the terms of the GRP = conservation=20 easement deed and implements the GRP management plan.  Regular monitoring helps = prevent=20 violations. 


Landowner(s) or = operators will be=20 notified prior to each onsite inspection. =20 When a site visit is being planned, the landowner or operator = should be=20 contacted and offered an opportunity to participate.  To the extent practicable, the = inspection schedule should meet with landowner or operator desires.  However, site visits should be = scheduled=20 in conjunction with other field activities, thus avoiding the need for a = specific field trip independent of other field activities in the = vicinity of the=20 easement.


A key ingredient to = successful=20 monitoring and the prevention of contract violations is a good = relationship with=20 the landowner.  There is = no=20 substitute for frequent and direct interaction with the landowner to = reinforce=20 the provisions of the easement and to answer questions that may arise.=20 Communication with landowners is the key to minimizing violations.  Depending on the individuals = involved,=20 this communication may be by personal contact, letter, telephone, or = through an=20 intermediary.  This = communication=20 must be concise and frank in relation to what is allowable on the = easement or=20 rental contract area.  = Review=20 procedures for handling potentially violent situations prior to making = personal=20 contact with landowners or alleged trespassers to ensure the safety of = all NRCS=20 personnel and agents.


The Baseline = Inventory Report=20 should be used in monitoring for comparison purposes between = pre-existing and=20 current conditions of the easement area. =20 This report can be used to assess whether any new unauthorized = structures=20 have been built, the degradation or improvement of the grassland = resource, or=20 any other changes since the easement was first closed. 



A GRP monitoring checklist is = required to be=20 completed each year.  The = monitoring=20 checklist identifies the minimum monitoring requirements necessary to = ensure=20 that the integrity of the easement or rental contract is being = maintained.  It also indicates whether the = landowner=20 or operator has implemented the GRP management plan.  NRCS State Conservationist has = the=20 authority to expand the checklist to include State-specific resource=20 concerns.  Responses to = questions on=20 the check list should be thoroughly documented.  All monitoring actively must = be well=20 documented in the administrative file.



Monitoring the GRP = conservation=20 easement includes monitoring the GRP management plan to ensure that full = grassland functions and values are achieved and maintained.  GRP management plans should be = considered =93living documents=94 that are subject to change over time = in order to=20 continue efforts to maximize grassland functions and values. Information = obtained through the monitoring process will be used to assess the = effectiveness=20 of the plan and address any technical assistance needs of the landowner = or=20 operator in implementing the plan. =20 This information should be documented on the GRP monitoring = checklist.=20 All GRP conservation easement sites will be monitored annually either = using=20 remote sensing or examining the easement on-site. 


a.      =20 Modifications to the GRP management = plan.  By signing the GRP = conservation easement=20 deed, NRCS and the landowner (its heirs, successors, assigns, lessees, = etc.)=20 agree that good resource management and land stewardship is important = for=20 present and future generations.  = The=20 landowner agrees to develop and implement a GRP management plan, which = describes=20 the practices, measures, and other conditions necessary for restoring = and=20 maintaining the viability of grassland and other conservation values on = the=20 easement or rental area.


All = modifications=20 to the GRP management plan must be made by mutual agreement between the=20 landowner and NRCS.  NRCS = may=20 approve modifications for grazing management plans as long as the = modifications=20 do not affect the provisions of the easement and meet GRP program=20 objectives.


b.     =20 New Ownership.  The terms of the GRP = conservation=20 easement deed, require the owner to sign an NRCS-approved GRP management = plan.=20 In the event of new ownership, NRCS will discuss and evaluate, with the = new=20 owner, the existing GRP management plan and make modifications to the = plan, as=20 needed, to ensure it is accepted and implemented.


c.      =20 Natural Disaster.  When a natural disaster such = as an=20 earthquake, devastating fire, or severe flood event occurs, the NRCS = State=20 Conservationist shall be notified by the local District Conservationist = or NRCS=20 representative and provided a status report of the condition of the = site.  The NRCS National Program = Manager should=20 be notified if funding is needed to repair or reestablish a damaged = site.



On an annual basis, = the ownership=20 of the land encumbered by the easement will be verified by the District=20 Conservationist or local NRCS representative. If ownership interest has = changed,=20 then the District Conservationist or local NRCS representative shall = contact and=20 provide the new owners with a copy of the GRP conservation easement deed = and GRP=20 management plan and explain the terms and conditions of the easement and = plan of=20 operations. If personal contact is not possible, a certified receipt = return=20 letter should be used and records kept of the contact. When the = ownership=20 interest remains the same as in the previous year, a letter reminding = the owner=20 that the easement is still in effect and that it is being monitored by = NRCS=20 should be sent to the owner.  = If=20 possible, include in the easement filing that any new landowners will be = provided copies of the GRP conservation easement.


Part 3 Easement=20 Enforcement


Easement enforcement = actions are=20 not matters subject to review by the National Appeals Division = (NAD).  A person can only appeal an = agency=20 decision to NAD if the person is a participant whose rights have been = adversely=20 affected by the decision, and the matter is not of general applicability = (7 CFR=20 Part 11).  Appeal = regulations are=20 not invoked unless the party requesting the appeal is within the scope = of its=20 protection.  Therefore, = the person=20 must be a participant for purposes for which the decision relates. 


The NAD rules define = participant=20 as "any individual or entity who has applied for, or whose right to = participate=20 in or receive, a payment, loan, loan guarantee, or other benefit in = accordance=20 with any program of any agency, is affected by a decision of such agency = (7 CFR=20 Part 11.1). The subject matter of NAD jurisdiction only encompasses = appeals of=20 "adverse decisions made by an agency, including denial of participation = in, or=20 receipt of benefits under, any program of an agency (7 CFR Part 4.3). = Once a=20 landowner has sold an easement to the United States and has = received=20 payment for such transaction, the landowner is no longer a participant = as=20 defined by NAD.  = Therefore, once=20 administrative compliance activities have failed without adequate = performance by=20 the landowner/operator, and after consultation with OGC, NRCS may seek = remedy=20 through the federal courts.



It is necessary from = a practical=20 and legal standpoint to enforce easements and rental contracts = effectively and=20 to detect and prosecute violations. This can be accomplished by = collecting and=20 preserving information and managing inspection records in a consistent = manner.=20 Therefore, it is necessary to have an easement or rental contract = document with=20 clear and enforceable conditions and restrictions, a well-written GRP = management=20 plan, and a program of regular, systematic, and well-documented = inspections.=20 NRCS must have good written inspection records, and a written record of=20 conversations with the landowner or operator to be able to reasonably = determine=20 how and why the violation occurred. =20 The terms and conditions of a GRP management plan should be = discussed=20 with the landowner or operator prior to recording the easement or = executing the=20 rental contract and with subsequent landowners or operators.  An accurate and = well-documented record=20 is essential.


All easements and = rental=20 contracts will be inspected for violations.  A violation is any = unauthorized use of=20 the site or action that does not comply with terms of the GRP management = plan.=20 On-site inspections should consist of walking the easement boundary and=20 confirming that the interior of the easement site is not being used for=20 unauthorized purposes while verifying that the easement boundaries are = still=20 clearly marked. At a minimum, on-site inspections will be completed the = first=20 year of the easement or rental contract, and every third year = thereafter, unless=20 a violation is found.  = Aerial=20 monitoring will be conducted using remote sensing technology for years = that are=20 not monitored on-site.  If = a=20 violation occurs, on-site visits will be conducted once every six = months, for a=20 period of 18 months after the violation has been cured.



Suspected violations = of the GRP=20 conservation easement deed or GRP management plan should be immediately = reported=20 to the National Program Manager.  = It=20 is essential that all information regarding the suspected violation, = including=20 communications with the landowner, be well documented in the in the=20 administrative file.  NRCS = must make=20 a determination on whether the suspected violation is an actual = violation.  Violations of the GRP = conservation=20 easement deed may be more easily apparent, and readily detected, than = violations=20 of the GRP management plan. =20 Additional onsite visits may be required to fully assess the = suspected=20 violation, as well as grassland condition, land use practices, and other = items=20 of interest. 


All documentation = that concerns=20 violation determination, or pursuing a violation, must be clear, = exhaustive, and=20 well-organized in the administrative file. =20 It should also be noted that documentation of findings of no = violation is=20 just as important as documentation of findings of a violation.  Prior to making an onsite = visit or=20 making contact with the landowner, the local NRCS Representative, State = Program=20 Manager, NRCS State = Conservationist,=20 National Program Manager, and Regional OGC should consult.  In addition, NRCS personnel = responsible=20 making a violation determination should collect and/or review the=20 following: 


  1. Courthouse and FSA records;


  1. Case=20 files containing information about prior contacts with the landowner = and the=20 landowner=92s reactions to NRCS activities on the easement area.  (Prior confrontations and = unusual=20 reactions of the landowner, if any, should be noted);


  1. Pertinent material from the administrative file; =


  1. Easement Violation Worksheets;


  1. Maps=20 noting location of possible violation; and


  1. Photos=20 and/or videos of the condition of the site. Photographs should be = taken as=20 soon as possible when significant changes occur such as land use or = possible=20 violations of the easement. =20



The purpose of an = onsite visit is=20 to gather additional information that will aid NRCS, and perhaps the = Regional=20 OGC, in making a violation determination. =20 The purpose is not to notify the landowner of a violation. The = purpose is=20 to make a site visit, document the situation, and gather as much = relevant=20 information as possible. It is advisable to visit a site in the company = of=20 another NRCS employee to help substantiate observations. During the = onsite visit=20 the following should occur:


  1. Meet=20 with landowner or representative, if landowner requests it;


  1. Identify yourself and the assisting employee and = state that=20 you represent the NRCS.  = The=20 individual must know that you are a federal employee. This may be = extremely=20 important if the interview results in an NRCS employee being = assaulted;=20


  1. Establish the identity of the individual you wish to = interview=20 and obtain the person=92s address. Initially, this may be the = landowner or=20 operator. It is important to establish which individual manages the = land;=20


  1. Try to=20 establish who is responsible for the activity that is considered a=20 violation.  It may also = be=20 possible to establish who ordered the work done and whether it was = done by an=20 alleged violator=92s employee or through contract; and


  1. Identify and interview all persons involved. =


Do not take the case = file to the=20 meeting. The whole file is not open to for viewing by the landowner, = operator,=20 or the general public. Only USDA, NRCS, and OGC officials are permitted = to have=20 access to the file.  If, = at any=20 point during the conversation, unrelated issues arise that may confuse = the case,=20 it is best to tell the individual that you will get back to them after=20 completing your investigation. =20 Contact OGC for a legal advice before notifying the landowner of = a=20 violation and demanding a cure. =20 NRCS personnel should withdraw from any situation that becomes=20 hostile.


Make a complete set = of notes=20 about the size and extent of the possible violation including size and = extent of=20 the possible violation, grass, forbs, tree, shrub species in the area, = the area=20 of possible violation, loss of wildlife species, and removed or = destroyed posts,=20 and any other activities or pertinent site conditions.  Compile photographic = documentation=20 (photos, slides, videos, etc) of all aspects of the possible violation = including=20 views from various directions that capture the suspected violation, such = as=20 dumping or encroachment, potentially controversial areas concerning = compliance,=20 and the general nature of the surrounding easement area so that adequate = compliance can be easier to achieve. Indicate on a map the points from = which=20 photographic coverage was taken, and label all pertinent data on the=20 photographic coverage.  = Collect GPS=20 points of the suspected violation location and delineate the location of = the=20 violation on a current map.


As soon as the NRCS = employees=20 have departed from the subject=92s location, a thorough job of = documenting all=20 evidence obtained during the interview must be done.  Important evidence may be lost = if=20 trusted only to memory. =20 Considerable time can pass between the interview and the time = when the=20 information may be needed in court. After the site visit, create a = record of the=20 visit including the name and address of the landowner or landowner=92s=20 representative, a reference to the tract of land covered by easement, = and=20 factual observations regarding the demeanor of the landowner or = landowner=92s=20 representative - do not use derogatory or subjective statements.


After the onsite = visit, the NRCS=20 representative must decide what must be done to restore or remediate the = damage=20 to the easement.  This may = require=20 consultation with other NRCS professionals and/or OGC.  Serious violations may be = referred to the=20 Department of Justice (DOJ) after consultation with OGC. 



NRCS will provide the = record to=20 OGC and in consultation with OGC determine if a violation has = occurred.  When a violation of the = easement has=20 been determined, the landowner shall be notified by the NRCS State=20 Conservationist using certified, return-receipt mail and given an = opportunity to=20 voluntarily correct the violation within no more than 30 days of the = date of the=20 notice.  The = return-receipt card=20 must be kept in the official administrative file and a copy sent to the = Regional=20 OGC.  Prior to, and = immediately=20 following, the response deadline an NRCS representative will need to = inspect the=20 work to ensure proper compliance - especially if it is a small amount of = work=20 that is likely to be ignored or avoided.


The letter of = landowner=20 notification should be copied to your local OGC attorney. Prior to = sending=20 written notice of the violation to the landowner, the NRCS State = Conservationist=20 must contact the Regional OGC representative to ensure that NRCS is not=20 compromising its enforcement position. The Regional OGC representative = should=20 provide advice on the contents of the landowner violation notification = letter,=20 including appropriate =93cease and desist=94 language, NRCS violation = documentation=20 requirements, and enforcement proceedings strategy.  The letter of notification = must:


a.      =20 Clearly state the remediation requirements, = other=20 compliance terms and the compliance deadline (30 days or less);


b.     =20 Include a map indicating the location(s) and = work=20 required for compliance;


c.      =20 Request that the landowner call you when the = work is=20 completed;


d.     =20 Provide your contact number in case the = landowner has=20 any questions;


e.      =20 Inform the landowner that if compliance is not = obtained,=20 the case will be referred to OGC for possible legal action; and


f.      =20 Provide guidelines for remediation.



Immediately following = the=20 expiration of the period to cure, it is essential to make a field check = to=20 ensure compliance. After the NRCS State Conservationist determines that = the=20 easement area has been remediated, a certified letter notifying the = landowner of=20 compliance should be mailed and explain that any future violations may = be=20 referred to the DOJ for possible action. =20


In the case of = cultivated,=20 plowed, or destroyed grasslands, compliance will not be complete until = reseeded=20 grasses are established.  = A=20 reseeding by the landowner/operator is only a first step to being in=20 compliance.  NRCS must = discuss with=20 the landowner/operator the process of remediation and re-establishing = the=20 grassland habitats.  This = process=20 may take several years and may involve mowing of weeds (with prior=20 authorization) or re-seeding (with prior authorization).  In the event the = landowner/operator does=20 not comply, consult with OGC.  =  



NRCS must prepare = three copies of=20 a litigation report when an easement violation is to be referred DOJ by=20 OGC.  The litigation = report should=20 contain the following: the complete record related to the violation and=20 subsequent enforcement attempt by NRCS, including, correspondence, maps, = photographs and/or video of the site showing the violation, testing = results,=20 correspondence from the landowner/operator; any other relevant = information; an=20 index to the report for ease of reference; a summary of the facts, = including a=20 chronology of events; and agency names and contact numbers.  The NRCS representative starts = the=20 routing process by submitting one copy of the case report to the NRCS = State=20 Conservationist to be forwarded to OGC.



The landowner = receiving the=20 cost-share payments is responsible to the Federal Government for any = losses the=20 Federal Government sustains when the landowner infringes on the rights = of=20 others, does not comply with applicable laws or regulations, or allows = others to=20 infringe on the rights of the Federal Government.  The United=20 States or USDA may be entitled to = recover any=20 and all administrative and legal costs, including attorney=92s fees or = expenses,=20 associated with any enforcement or remedial action. 

Chapter 9 Cooperative=20 Agreements



Eligible entities may = apply for=20 GRP funds to write, own, and enforce GRP conservation easements through = the use=20 of a cooperative agreement. =20 Entities may apply at NRCS State Offices for parcels with pending = offers=20 that meet GRP eligibility requirements. =20 The landowner and the parcel must meet the all the eligibility=20 requirements.


A cooperative = agreement is the=20 legal agreement with which the federal government establishes = partnerships with=20 eligible cooperating entities (State, Tribal, or local government or = qualified=20 non-governmental organizations).  = This agreement provides the needed flexibility at the state or = local=20 level for meeting program goals and objectives.  A copy of the standard GRP = Cooperative=20 Agreement is presented in Appendix B. =20



An eligible entity = demonstrates=20 that it has the relevant experience and resources to administer a GRP=20 conservation easement.  = Its ch