How to Submit a Conservation Stewardship Program Comment

In November 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This sort of rule is released about once every five years, and acts as the blueprint for how the program will operate. If you are a farmer or rancher who has used CSP, or is interested in it, we encourage you to write a comment on the rule.

This page provides instructions for how to submit your comment to USDA, and our recommendations for some ideas to include in your text. We look forward to working with you to ensure that farmers’ and ranchers' voices are heard in this process. If you have any questions, or would like to talk through tailoring your own comment with us, please reach out to kateh@cfra.org or annaj@cfra.org or 515.215.1294.

Still wondering if you should write a comment? Check out our blog, here.

How to submit a comment

Deadline: January 13, 2020 

Follow the instructions below to submit your comment to USDA. 

Preparing your comment

  1. Draft your comment. We recommend working from a file on a personal computer and saving often.
     
  2. Check out our comment template below and here (in pdf format). Feel free to use our text in your comment. Your comment will have a greater impact if you add in some personal information about your operation and your experiences with the program, and why you think CSP is valuable. 
     
  3. Please be sure to include the following text in your comment:

    I am writing in response to “Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Interim Rule,” from Federal Register Volume 84, No. 218, pages 60883-60900, published Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Docket number NRCS-2019-0020.
     
  4. We recommend saving your final comment as a PDF. Consider adding personal touches such as a signature or letterhead.

Submitting your comment

For instructions on how to submit your comment, watch the video above of read or read the below instructions.

  1. Click this link to go to the comment submission page at regulations.gov.
     
  2. Upload your saved comment file by clicking “choose files.”
     
  3. Fill in your personal information. 
     
  4. Note that no personal information is required. You can submit anonymously. However, we suggest putting your name, city, and state if you are not comfortable putting more information. Comments with names are typically taken more seriously. 
     
  5. Click “continue.”
     
  6. Check the box indicating that you have read the privacy statement.
     
  7. Click “submit.”
     
  8. Email annaj@cfra.org or kateh@cfra.org to let us know that you submitted a comment.

Our comment template

We’ve been in contact with many farmers and ranchers about their experiences with CSP, because we want to make sure that our recommendations are based on the things that are most important to you. Our comment template focuses on a few of the issues we heard the most, but please see this template as a guideline. Your comment will have the most impact if it also contains your personal story. Click here for the pdf version.

Matt Lohr​
Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC 20250

Dear NRCS,

I am writing in response to “Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Interim Rule,” from Federal Register Volume 84, No. 218, pages 60883-60900, published Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Docket number NRCS-2019-0020.

[Include your story about your operation, your experiences with CSP and conservation, and why you consider CSP a valuable program.]

Here are some things you should consider while making changes to CSP:

Recognize existing conservation work. CSP currently rewards farmers and ranchers for new conservation practices. But when NRCS evaluates applications and calculates payments for proposed contracts, sometimes operators with high levels of ongoing conservation are penalized—their applications are not approved, or their payments are smaller. In addition to rewarding new conservation, NRCS should build increased recognition for ongoing conservation into its evaluation and payment formulas.

Make renewing a CSP contract more appealing, straightforward, and accessible. Farmers and ranchers who have successfully completed a CSP contract have demonstrated a commitment to conservation, but options to renew our contracts are either not appealing or unavailable. In many cases payments are lower, or renewal applications are not approved even though we increased our conservation practices under the previous contract. In awarding renewal contracts, please give greater weight to our conservation efforts under the previous CSP contract, in both evaluating applications and calculating payments. Please also allow for multiple renewals.

Don’t squeeze out family farms from participating in CSP. The rule states that the maximum size of a five-year CSP contract is $200,000 for most farmers and ranchers, but $400,000 for joint operations. By allowing larger contracts for joint operations, less funding overall will be available for many farmers and ranchers who want to participate in CSP. The maximum contract size should be limited to $200,000 over five years for all.

Thank you for your consideration,
[your name]