The North Dakota Conservation Forage Program (CFP) launched in the spring of 2021 supported by a $6.9 million North Dakota Industrial Commission Outdoor Heritage Fund grant, the largest awarded by the Commission. The CFP will support private landowners in converting up to 18,000 acres of cropland back to native grass while facilitating the adoption of adaptive land management to improve grassland and soil health through livestock integration.
Through CFP, landowners will be able to improve forage availability and quality, wildlife habitat, and soil health by re-establishing grasslands and integrating grazing and haying on their land. CFP provides three years of transition payments based on NASS county-level rates as well as cost-share for native grassland seed mixes, seeding labor, and fence and water development on reseeded areas. Audubon Dakota and partners are proud to provide an opportunity to offset the costs of establishing working grasslands on marginal croplands. Enrolled landowners are expected to maintain the enrolled grasslands for a 10-year term. The program welcomes applications from landowners interested in assistance for restoring cropland back to native prairie.
The Conservation Forage Program will lead the establishment of grassland habitat across North Dakota, not only for the benefit of the landowner and livestock, but also for grassland birds and native wildlife like white-tailed deer and monarch butterflies. Producers are encouraged to collaborate with a technical assistance provider to fill out and submit the online application by February 28th, 2022 to receive approval and funding for spring 2022 seeding. Audubon Dakota and program partners will provide integral technical assistance to landowners to ensure successful transition of acres to productive, diverse grasslands.
Conservation partners include the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, North Dakota Wildlife Federation, Delta Waterfowl, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and USFWS Partners for Wildlife Program. By building relationships across organizations, CFP will meet the collective goals of improving soil health, increasing land profitability, and supporting livestock agriculture – all while restoring biodiversity.