Travelers and shoppers headed west on William Street just past the Interstate 55 interchange ride the line of commercial development in Cape Girardeau. To the left, a series of big box stores fill the landscape; on the right are the rolling hills of a dairy farm.
In an effort to help farmers and ranchers protect their lands from nonagricultural development, the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a March 15 deadline for the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). The program provides funding to help alleviate pressure on farmers to sell land to developers.
Not far from the interchange is Ramsey Creek Farms, owned and operated by Charles Schabbing, who wants to keep his land agricultural.
"It's not for sale because we want to keep it as a dairy farm," Schabbing said.
While it is a struggle as time goes on and offers for the property go up, Schabbing does everything he can to try to protect it.
"It's hard to turn down, that's true. But when that land is gone, it's gone," he said. "Then where are we going to get our food from?"
Despite his desire to keep his family's land, Schabbing doesn't know how long he will be able to amid pressures to sell.
"We might be forced out," he said.
"Many farmers and ranchers with land near urban areas would like to preserve open space, but the financial incentive of selling land for development often is too enticing," said acting state conservationist Karen Brinkman by news release. "The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program at least gives them an option."
To qualify for the program, land must be part of a farm or ranch and have more than 50 percent of its soils rated as prime farmland soils, or be a site that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The landowner also must be facing development pressure because current market value of the land exceeds the agricultural value.
A conservation easement agreement must be created with a land trust or other entity, which can submit a proposal to the NRCS state conservationist through a local USDA Service Center. Also, the land must be privately owned, be large enough to sustain agricultural production, be adjacent to other agricultural parcels and have a NRCS conservation plan.
Brinkman said NRCS does not yet have funding for new FRPP contracts. She said farmers and ranchers with land that may be eligible should contact their local NRCS office. Personnel in local USDA Service Centers can help prepare applications and forward them to Brinkman in the NRCS State Office in Columbia, Mo., by the deadline.
More information is available at mo.nrcs.usda.gov or through local Farm Service Agency personnel.
William St & Interstate 55, Cape Girardeau, MO
480 Jackson Trail, Jackson, MO
North St, Benton, MO
404 E Main St, Marble Hill, Ma