Refuge Seeks Agricultural Producers for Cooperative Agriculture Program
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking an agricultural producer (Cooperator) for a Cooperative Agriculture Agreement at Camas National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in Hamer, Idaho. The producer will farm land on the refuge for a period of five years as a Cooperator with the Service.
Applicants must fill out applicable portions of FWS Form 3-1383-C and bid sheet. The applicants must address in their application how the applicant will meet the criteria outlined in the announcement.
The nearly 11,000-acre Refuge was established in 1937, to provide habitat for migratory birds, especially migratory waterbirds. Refuge farmlands principally supply forage for grazing Canada geese and Sandhill cranes throughout the summer in the alfalfa fields. The alfalfa crop is also utilized by big game animals that inhabit the Refuge and surrounding lands. During the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Planning efforts, these farming practices were discussed with our partners. Idaho Fish & Game encouraged the Refuge to maintain farming to alleviate depredation complaints that occur on private lands surrounding the Refuge.
Camas NWR has two areas that are currently farmed. These areas were historically farmed prior to becoming part of the Refuge. Our objective with our farming program is to provide acres available for local farmers to produce alfalfa crops, while providing an additional food source for wildlife that utilize the Refuge as resting and feeding areas. Our cooperators plant ¾ of the available farmed acres with alfalfa, which provides a food source for Canada geese, Sandhill cranes, and big game animals, such as deer and elk. The alfalfa crop is usually harvested by the cooperator two to three times a year. The other ¼ of the farmed acres is planted to small grain (wheat or barley) at the cooperator’s expense and is left for wildlife. It is typically used by migratory birds when the crop matures.
80 acres will be farmed under this cooperative agreement. The area to be farmed in broken up into 4 – 20-acre tracts (see map). Three tracts (60 acres) will used to grow alfalfa and one tract (20 acres) will be used for small grain. All preparation work, cost of seed, and planting of the alfalfa and small grain is incurred by the cooperator. However, the small grain that is left for wildlife is considered the Refuge’s share. Irrigation infrastructure is provided and owned by the Refuge. The cooperator is responsible for operating the irrigation system and will incur any costs for repair or maintenance of the wheel irrigation lines that are present. The Cooperator is also responsible for the cost of electricity to operate the irrigation well, and it is preferred that the electrical meter is in the name of the cooperator, so they get directly billed. If that is not possible for some reason, the Cooperator and Refuge Manager will work to find a solution, so the Refuge gets reimbursed for the cost of electricity. In addition, invasive plant species are controlled using appropriate Integrated Pest Management techniques including mechanical/physical, chemical, biological, and cultural means. Before the Cooperator is to apply herbicides, they must check with Refuge Manager to be sure that chemical is approved for use. The Refuge will reserve the right to apply herbicides provided by the cooperated if possible.
The Cooperative Agriculture Program for the Refuge is guided by the CCP and the Cooperative Farming Special Conditions, which states the rules and regulations that all cooperative farmers must abide. The Cooperative Agriculture Program has been deemed an appropriate, compatible use, and has undergone an Environmental Assessment for the Camas National Wildlife Refuge. These plans provide guidance to employ farming as a habitat management tool on the Refuge, which may be used to meet resource management objectives on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with the Service’s Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health policy. The Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior.
The Proposed Cooperative Agriculture Agreement
The selected Cooperator will enter into a Cooperative Agricultural Agreement (CAA) with the Refuge, which will include a Plan of Operations that defines the process by which the farming program will be administered and further delineates the requirements and restrictions of the Cooperator. The Cooperator will develop a 5-year crop plan with the Refuge Manager for each assigned field. This plan will be renewed annually via a signed addendum that may incorporate modest changes. Primary crops are alfalfa and small grain.
General Operating Requirements:
- Crop plans may be altered through consensus by both the Refuge Manager and Cooperators annually during the 5-year agreement.
- The 5-year agreement will renew annually on April 1 each year.
- The farmer shall provide all necessary work, materials, and equipment to produce the stated crops.
- Cooperators may be required to replant failed crops at their own expense.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy prohibits the use of GMOs and neonicotinoids. All pesticides must be pre-approved under a pesticide use permit (PUP) for the refuge. A list of currently approved pesticides is available. No restricted use chemicals will be permitted for use on the Refuge. The Cooperator is required to provide the Refuge Manager a pesticide and fertilizer use report by January 15 of each year documenting any herbicide applications made on the refuge.
- All liability relating to farming and crop management to include all persons working for the Cooperator, whether related, hired, or as a partner is strictly that of the Cooperator as listed on the CAA.
- The Cooperator must have or acquire liability insurance that covers the equipment used on Service lands. A copy of the liability insurance must be provided to the Refuge Manager (or designee).
- All equipment for farming, including tractors, trucks, ATVs, and UTVs, must be clean and free of plant material including seeds before entering any Refuge or Service easement. The Refuge Manager (or designee) reserves the right to inspect and deny the use of any equipment/vehicle/horse etc. that appears to contain invasive species plant material or seeds. Equipment must meet all safety regulations and must be in good working condition.
- Farming privileges may not be sold, transferred, or sublet, except by transfer to heirs in the event of the death of the Cooperator.
- Non-use of farmlands, in whole or in part, shall be cause for cancellation of a Cooperator's privileges at the discretion of the Refuge Manager, unless non-use has previously been approved.
- A five-year plan for crop rotation and annual work plans will be developed by the Refuge Manager and the Cooperator prior to the period of operations.
The producer(s) will be selected through an open and competitive process where applications will be scored and ranked by Refuge Complex staff using the following criteria:
- Experience in cultivation of grains and green forage, especially personal experience on NWRS lands or comparable conservation lands, including knowledge of soil composition, chemistry, moisture, and fertility, water needs, and pest problems.
- Demonstrated ability to successfully cultivate crops under restrictions listed above (e.g. non-GMO crops, non-neonicotinoid pesticides, restricted timing of harvest, and limitations on pesticides).
- Ownership or access to the proper equipment, materials, labor, or other resources to participate in the Cooperative Agriculture Agreement (equipment and personnel).
- Proximity of personnel to monitor crops and respond to crop failures or crop health issues.
- Positive references regarding past performance, experience, and abilities related to crop cultivation.
80 acres will be farmed under this cooperative agreement. This tract is divided in 4-20-acre fields and a rotation schedule of which 20 acres will be small grain will be worked out between the cooperator and Refuge Manager. See Map
To apply, complete FWS Form 3-1383-C (Download at https://www.fws.gov/forms/3-1383-C.pdf) and bid sheet (included in this document). Hard copies can be requested by calling Brian Wehausen, Refuge Manager, at 208-662-5423 or emailing him at email@example.com. Hard copies can also be picked up at Refuge Headquarters located at Camas NWR at 2150 E 2350 N., Hamer, ID. Mail completed applications to Southeast Idaho NWR Complex Camas NWR Cooperative Farming Proposal, 4425 Burley Drive Suite A, Chubbuck, ID 83202 or email them to Southeast_Idaho_NWR@fws.gov.
The Cooperator will be selected through an open and competitive process where applications will be scored and ranked by a panel of Refuge Complex staff.
Proposals are to be submitted to the Refuge Complex Headquarters in a sealed envelope marked U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Camas NWR Cooperative Farming Proposal, 4425 Burley Drive Suite A, Chubbuck, ID 83202. The envelopes may be submitted either by mail or hand delivery to the refuge office. In either case, proposals will only be accepted between February 13 and March 16, 2023. Proposal envelopes must be received in the office by March 16, 2023at 4:00 pm. All proposals will be opened on March 21, 2023. The individual with the highest ranked proposal will be notified within 2 weeks of their selection.