Mark your calendars now for Oct. 15 through Oct.17 as the 1st Annual Coastal Bend Farm and Ranch Show will be held at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown.

This show will be family-oriented, with many commercial booths displaying some of the latest technology used in production Agriculture and field demonstrations of farm equipment.

During the three-day show, there will be numerous educational seminars with topics ranging from crop marketing strategies, rainwater harvesting options, cool season crop options, pasture weed control, private pesticide applicator training, beef cattle production, basic

horsemanship, tree selection for home landscape, and landscape drought recovery, just to name a few.

Pesticide applicators will be able to obtain continuing education units for participating in various programs during the show.

Booth space is available by contacting the Robstown Area Development Commission at (361) 387-3933 or by visiting their Web site, http://robstownadc.com.

This show is being sponsored by the RADC, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, City of Robstown and Nueces County.

Grassland Reserve Program

Grassland owners in South Texas, the area hardest hit by the state's drought, will be given priority consideration to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Grassland Reserve Program, a $4.2 million conservation program in Texas.

"While GRP is open to anyone who owns grassland, we are giving priority consideration to drought areas so ranchers can protect their land resources through rental agreements or perpetual easements," said Don Gohmert, state conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Texas.

Extreme or exceptional drought has been designated in 78 counties in South Texas by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Landowners in these counties can sign-up for GRP to be compensated to defer cattle grazing until grassland conditions improve.

"Areas in South Texas are the driest in the entire country based on the USDA's Drought Monitor," said Juan Garcia, Farm Service Agency, state executive director for Texas. "By enrolling in GRP, landowners can defer grazing, protect their land, and receive compensation."

GRP is a continuous sign-up program, but landowners are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to be eligible for the 2009 funding cycle, which ends in September.

The NRCS and FSA administer GRP, a voluntary program reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect grazing uses and other related conservation values by restoring and conserving eligible grasslands and certain other lands through rental agreements and easements.

The enrollment options for GRP include:

Rental agreements for 10, 15, or 20-year durations, with the USDA paying 75 percent of the grazing value in annual payments for the length of the agreement. Permanent easements - The USDA makes payments based on the fair market value of the property less the grazing value.

Land that is privately owned is eligible for GRP. The land must be grassland for which the predominant use is grazing. Land that has been historically dominated by grassland and provides habitat for animal or plant populations of significant ecological value, or land that contains historical or archeological resources is eligible.

Land previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program is eligible for GRP.

Publicly owned land is not eligible or land already under protection from conversion to non-grazing uses is also not eligible.

For more information about GRP and conservation programs that may be available for conservation technical and financial assistance, visit the nearest USDA Service Center, or visit the NRCS Texas Web site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5217.