The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service recently released their 2018 Land Values Summary. The Mountain Region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, experienced a 0.9 percent increase in value from 2017.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture census data, the average age of farmers and ranchers exceeded 58 years of age for the first time in 2012. Succession planning is one of the aspects of aging land operators and properties nearing transition.
The USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications under the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) for the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) and the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) programs. The deadline for funding in Montana is March 1, 2018. The announced cut-off date for funding consideration in Wyoming is January 26, 2018.
The Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC) has issued a Request for Proposals to invite users of the Colorado River System water in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming to submit proposals for Pilot Program water conservation projects. Projects are meant to test methods for saving water that could be part of a drought contingency plan in the Upper Basin of the Colorado River.
Nationwide, farm real estate values average $3,080 per acre in 2017, up $70 an acre or 2.3 % from 2016. The Mountain region has the lowest farm real estate value at $1,130 per acre. The value of cropland in the same region increased 1.1% year-over-year to $1,780 and pasture land values rose 1.3% to $625 per acre in 2017.
The USDA NRCS has awarded more than $22.6 million to drive innovation in conservation this year. Nationwide in 2017, 33 projects are receiving funding through the Conservation Innovation Grant program. There were a handful of innovative programs funded that are geared to the American West including several conservation finance projects.
The deadlines for local conservation districts and landowners to apply for funds under the Water Quality Grant Program (WQGP) and the Rangeland Health Assessments Program (RHAP), both Wyoming Department of Agriculture funding programs, are coming up in early June. Both programs require projects to have a 30% match, which can be cash or in-kind, and can also be federal funds such as 319 grand funds.
National agriculture industry consulting and CPA firm K-Coe Isom recently announced a new program aimed to help ranchers generate revenue from conservation projects while simultaneously reducing the rancher’s inherent risk of testing and implementing such projects. Funded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the program is specific to ranchers whose property is located in priority sage grouse habitat or crucial mule deer winter range or designated mule deer migration corridors within Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, or California.
Data from rangeland studies in both Oregon and New Mexico supports grazing as a strategy to promote ecological resiliency. Grazing can be used to manage and promote perennial grasses. In a study focusing on The Great Basin area, researchers found that the fuel moisture of un-grazed rangeland was 21% whereas the same fuel moisture of properly grazed rangeland was over double that at 46%.
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