Deadline is Nov. 20 for new grazing lands initiative |

Deadline is Nov. 20 for new grazing lands initiative

South Dakota livestock producers can apply for the Grazing Lands Sustainability Initiative (GSI), a management-oriented incentive to improve drought sustainability on grasslands. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering GSI through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The application deadline for general EQIP and also this special statewide initiative is Nov. 20, 2009.

Drought severely impacted many areas from 2003 through 2006 making business challenging for livestock producers.

“We may not have a drought right now, but drought is a part of life in South Dakota and it will return,” said Stan Boltz, South Dakota state rangeland management specialist in Huron. “This initiative helps grazing managers to be in the best position possible and also helps them develop a plan to survive when drought occurs.”

First piloted last fiscal year in a few counties, the GSI is now available statewide. The purpose is to offer incentives to encourage grassland management that will help producers prepare for drought. Participants receive GSI payments for prescribed grazing and grassland resting programs.

Landowners enter the GSI contracts for four years and have the option to include their entire grazing operation in a contract or only individual units. Since the funding targets education and improving management skills, rather than “practices on the ground,” applicants are eligible for only one contract for the life of this initiative. GSI participants will work with specialized NRCS staff to develop grazing management plans on their operation that include planning periods of grazing and rest through livestock movements and evaluating recommended stocking rates.

“Intensive grazing management will result in grasslands with optimum vigor and productivity,” explains Mitch Faulkner, rangeland management specialist in Mitchell. “These plant communities will be more resilient after drought and more productive during drought conditions.”

In addition, NRCS assists managers to develop a drought contingency plan so when drought conditions do occur, options have been evaluated and producers can make decisions more quickly.

“Drought contingency plans are tailored to each operation and a variety of options can be included such as early weaning, removing livestock from pastures and feeding them, or early culling,” said Faulkner. “We still want to aim for ‘take half-leave half’ grazing use during drought to ensure the effects on grassland plants are minimized and grassland plant communities can quickly return to normal conditions when favorable precipitation returns. We now have the tools and science available to better evaluate drought conditions and recommend management options to ensure grassland sustainability.”

Participants will also attend the South Dakota Grazing School which offers in-depth and hands-on training related to grazing management, drought planning, and monitoring. To learn more, contact the NRCS offices located in the local USDA Service Center or visit

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