black cows on a green hillside

Incentives Program

YearNumber of Farms ParticipatingNumber of Counties RepresentedAcreage Enrolled in ProgramVoluntarily Participating Acreage

The application for enrollment in VGBI’s 2024 financial incentives program is now CLOSED. Congratulation to our 2024 participating farmers – we collectively enrolled more than 1,500 acres into grassland bird conservation practices! Contingent on funding, our 2025 incentives program enrollment period will open in October 2024.

If you already participate in grassland bird-friendly land management by delaying the cutting of your hay or summer pasture stockpiling, or would like to participate without receiving financial incentives, please complete this form. We would love to learn more about your property, your experience managing your land, and grow our network of grassland bird-friendly landowners, farmers and land managers!

With funding support from the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, VGBI is able to offer monetary incentive payments to farmers willing to adopt one (or both) of the following best management practices, which encourage an abundance and diversity of bird species. Birds provide important ecosystem services that directly improve the resiliency of working landscapes.

VGBI’s incentives program targets farmers interested in adopting delayed spring haying and/or summer pasture stockpiling into their long-term production goals but who might be hesitant about the financial risks involved. VGBI’s incentives program offers up to $35 per acre to offset the initial costs of piloting these best management practices.

Eligible Counties

Albemarle, Augusta, Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Frederick, Greene, Loudoun, Madison, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Warren

Site Selection

Most grassland bird species require wide expanses of grasses for nesting, so acreage that best mimics a large, contiguous patch of grass, distant from thick forest edges and human development, is best suited for this incentive program. Here are some habitat characteristics to consider when selecting fields and/or pastures:

  • Size: 20 or more acres are preferred.

  • Shape: Square or rectangle fields are preferred over long, narrow fields, fields with many twists and turns, and fields with patches of shrubs or trees throughout.

  • Surroundings: Fields surrounded by other hay fields or pastures are preferred over
    those bordered by forest or development.

Field Suitability

High (Green): Large (more than 20 acres), square or rectangular shape, open grasses, connected to other fields, few or no forested borders.

Medium (Yellow): Long and narrow or irregular shape, some forested borders, some connectivity with other fields. These fields may be considered if grassland birds are present.

Low (Red): Small (less than 20 acres), long and narrow or irregular shape, patches of trees within, most or all forested borders, no connectivity with other fields.

Incentives Program Steering Committee

VGBI has convened a steering committee of natural resource professionals and producers to guide the development of the incentives program, including eligibility requirements, a network of alternative hay markets, and resources and support that will help program participants sustain grassland bird conservation practices into the future.

Justin Proctor, Coordinator of the Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative, Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes

October Greenfield, Co-coordinator of the Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative, The Piedmont Environmental Council

Jacob Gilley, Mid-Atlantic Sustainable Grazing Manager, American Farmland Trust

Amy Johnson, Program Director, Virginia Working Landscapes

Mike Kane, Director of Conservation, The Piedmont Environmental Council

Tim Mize, Unit Coordinator and Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources – Animal Science, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Kevin Tate, Project Manager, Shenandoah Valley Conservation Collaborative

Matt Booher, Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Laura Lecker, Technical Director, Somerset County SWCD

How to Participate

Our interest application for enrollment in VGBI’s Financial Incentives Program is currently CLOSED. If you have any questions, please contact VGBI Co-Coordinator October Greenfield by email at or by phone at (540) 347-2334 x7051.