It was once said, “The best thing about the land is the landscape.” A good point, but what is also very rewarding is an additional return on your investment through special programs designed to protect and preserve that landscape.

Many landowners are unaware of ongoing incentives for maintaining or enhancing certain portions of their property, and the financial assistance which may be available. For years, the federal government and its various agencies have provided assistance and incentives to farmers and ranchers. The incentives I am referring to are for specified time frames and are not permanent easements with recorded deed restrictions.

These programs have served the interests of American society in several ways: Ensuring the food security of a hungry nation, providing financial protection for producers in times of drought or other natural disasters, offering attractive financing options for first-time agricultural operators, and providing other enticements to encourage people to participate in such crucial vocations as farming and ranching.

Opportunities to earn additional income from working lands continue to grow. A recent incentive option is the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This unique program focuses on conserving grasslands that currently have a grass cover used for grazing, hay production, or growing seed. It is very different from the well-known CRP program established in the Farm Bill of 1985.

Initially, the CRP was established to help improve and reestablish cover on highly erodible land. Over thirty-seven million acres were enrolled and enhanced through the original program, which emerged as an answer to ward off future events such as the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which changed the ecology of the southern prairies. The Dust Bowl was caused by a combination of soil erosion and the depletion of cover plants, due to undereducated farming practices and poor stewardship of the land, combined with drought and windstorms.