Conservation Stewardship Program signup is underway

Farmers interested in enrolling in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) this year have until May 10 to submit initial paperwork to their local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office.

The process to indicate interest in enrolling in CSP is easy. Farmers and ranchers only need to submit one form to NRCS, then work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) to establish a farm number, if they don’t already have one. You can read more about the application process here.

CSP offers farmers and ranchers an important pathway to enhancing stewardship of land, soil, and water resources. Under CSP, farmers and ranchers work with local NRCS staff to write a conservation plan for their operations. Together, they plan conservation practices to bring their operation to a higher level of stewardship while keeping acres in production. To be eligible to enroll in CSP, applicants must prove they already meet a conservation threshold on their operations. After NRCS evaluates CSP applications and awards contracts, farmers and ranchers receive payments to put the planned conservation practices into action.

The 2018 farm bill made some changes that take effect immediately. For example, the farm bill ceases commodity program payments for certain acres in grass-based agriculture. These acres have one-time eligibility to enroll in CSP. FSA will be contacting eligible farmers and ranchers with more information.

In addition, the farm bill increased the authorized payment levels for cover crops, resource conserving crop rotations, and advanced grazing management. These increased rates are available for cover crops and for resource conserving crop rotations in the 2019 sign up.

The farm bill made several other changes to CSP, but farmers and ranchers won’t see those changes until the 2020 signup. NRCS will first release a proposed rule and accept public comments, a process which U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue has indicated will begin this fall.

After their first five-year contract, farmers and ranchers can apply to enroll for a second CSP contract. NRCS recently announced that farmers and ranchers enrolled in CSP in 2014 who extended their contracts last year while the farm bill’s future was uncertain can now apply to renew their CSP contracts. Eligible farmers and ranchers should have received written notice from NRCS.

The current CSP signup window offers a valuable opportunity to enhance stewardship for a whole operation. Interested farmers and ranchers should contact their local NRCS office today to learn more.

Visit this link to contact your local NRCS office to learn more about signing up for CSP.