Farm Link Montana has partnered with the Rancher’s Stewardship Alliance to create Grass Link, a division of Land Link, to help connect beginning ranchers with retiring CRP land to support rural economies by creating opportunities for new ranchers to get started.

The Challenge

Ranching is not an easy business to get into, even if you’re lucky enough to have been born into an existing operation. Most family ranches aren’t big enough to be split among siblings, and generational transfers are never easy no matter the situation. For those not born into a family with land, the road can be even tougher. Despite the large and growing number of young people interested in the ranching business and way of life, opportunities for beginners are scarce and becoming scarcer with economic forces favoring consolidation and outside “amenity” owners buying land, driving prices out of reach.

Retiring CRP Land

Substantial reductions in budgets for the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland with an uncertain future. Many of these lands were marginal cropland enrolled during the drought of the 1980’s. Retired from active farming, they were seeded to perennial cover to reduce soil erosion and stabilize plummeting grain prices. Since then, conservation payments from these parcels have helped support an entire generation of landowners in the northern Great Plains. When these contracts expire, landowners are left looking for alternative sources of income from the properties and may even be forced to sell.

How Grass Link Works

The intention of the Grass Link directory, within Montana Land Link, is to connect expiring CRP lands with young, beginning and expanding ranchers who might not otherwise have grazing opportunities. Grass Link provides a direct connection between land owners and land seekers that can result in leases or sales of vulnerable grazing lands. In Blaine, Phillips and Valley counties, RSA and partners can offer financial cost-share for required livestock infrastructure (fences, water) and/or technical assistance to develop sustainable grazing management plans. To join Grass Link as a Land Owner or Land Seeker, fill out the appropriate application and select “RSA Grass Link” under Transition Arrangements. You can also contact an RSA representative for a paper application or to join over the phone.  Sign up with Grass Link today!

For more information or paper application contact:

Kathy Bagley, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance

PO Box 716, Malta, MT 59538