Wildlife may not be at the top of your priority list right now, especially if you still have corn and soybeans to plant and fields are wet, but when the rain stops, and it will stop sooner or later, here's a program that might be worth a look. Ken Culp, director of the Indiana Farm Service Agency, recently announced that Indiana would participate in the new 'State Acres for Wildlife Habitat' program. It's known in FSA under the acronym of SAFE.
USDA recently approved Indiana's participation in the SAFE project. Under the program, 13,100 acres in four project areas within the state will be devoted to wildlife. The purpose is to benefit species of wildlife that are either threatened or on the endangered species list.
In Indiana, that list starts with the Northern Bobwhite Quail. Both FSA an the Indiana Department of Natural Resources have been offering programs previously to try to promote protection of this bird in areas of the state where it is most common. Other species on the list in Indiana for the SAFE program include the Henslow's sparrow, Sedge Wren/grasshopper sparrow and the Indiana bat.
What this means to you depends upon where you live. To participate, you must farm or own land within one of the approved SAFE areas. Find out where those are by contacting your local FSA office. You can find your local service center most easily by visiting this Web site: offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=in&agency=fsa.
If you live in an area where you can participate, you can submit offers to voluntarily enroll acres in CRP contracts for 10 to 15years. If accepted you will receive annual rental payments, incentives and cost-share assistance in establishing the habitat for wildlife.
The SAFE program is part of the continuous CRP sign-up. You can enroll year-around, as long as you meet certain criteria, including that the land is locate within one of the priority areas for the program. Expired or expiring CRP land is eligible for this program provide it is offered before June 1 of the year following expiration of the contract. Land offered into the program must have been owned or operated by you for at least twelve months prior to offering the acreage for enrollment.
There are limits as to how many acres can be accepted in each priority area. Offers will be accepted by FSA until the acreage allotment is met.