Deadline Extended for Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA's National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the deadline for producer applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to March 13, 2015.

CSP is a continuous sign-up program, and producers can apply to enroll at any time of the year. NRCS applies a cut-off date for applications to be considered during a particular fiscal year. Once the cut-off date is past, producers may continue to apply, but they will not be considered for entry until the spring of the following year. To enroll in 2015, you must file your application by March 13.

The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary stewardship incentives program administered by NRCS. It rewards farmers, ranchers, and foresters for maintaining existing conservation and for adopting additional measures that run beyond the farm or ranch.

CSP pays producers for clean water, better soil management, improved habitat, energy efficiency, and other natural resource benefits. Since the program began in 2009, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled in the program.

To sign up, you should visit your NRCS local service center. You can find it here.

After you sign up, please call our Center for Rural Affairs' Farm Bill Helpline to share your experiences, both positive and negative. Previous sign-ups have yielded some great success stories for farmers and ranchers, but also some disappointments and frustrations.

We want the program to work for all farmers and ranchers who use conservation-based farming systems. We firmly believe the CSP is a step in the right direction for policy to financially reward historical commitments to conservation and encourage further adoption. This is a far better approach than paying to clean up problems.

One of the main goals for our Farm Bill Helpline is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of programs like the CSP. With that information, we are able to push for any needed changes and improvements.

You can also receive guidance to apply for other conservation programs through the helpline. I'll let you know the program's rules and how you can participate. Call 402.687.2100 and ask for the Farm Bill Helpline or send me an email, tracib@cfra.org.

Feature image: Grasses and a watershed dam combine to protect the land in the Troublesome Creek Watershed project in Cass County, Iowa. Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service