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Program pays farmers to plant native species


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The state is promoting a new program that would pay ranchers and farmers to plant native species on land they’re not using.

The program is designed to restore native wildlife habitat, to prevent fertilizer and other chemicals from getting into streams, and to help protect coral reefs.

State officials announced today that farmers and ranchers on the Big Island may start signing up for the program April 1.

The state expects to expand the plan to Lanai and Molokai next year and Oahu and Kauai after that. It may accelerate the schedule depending on demand.

Dozens of states on the mainland already participate in the program. It was started in the late 1990s by then-Vice President Al Gore.

The federal government will fund 80 percent of the cost, with the state making up the balance.