Center offers recommendations to further improve Conservation Stewardship Program

On Nov. 12, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which offers farmers and ranchers a valuable opportunity to build on and increase conservation on their operations.

The 2018 farm bill made a variety of changes to CSP, and this rule is the process where the USDA puts them into action. The changes include: 

  • Increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crops.
  • Introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management.
  • Creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan.
  • Increasing emphasis on soil health.

CSP is the USDA’s leading working lands and land management program. Its goal is to reward conservation efforts. The program available in all 50 states and the Pacific and Caribbean areas. Farmers and ranchers can apply anytime through a local NRCS office. In 2020, the USDA’s NRCS is expected to make $750 million available for CSP enrollment.

Earlier this month, the Center for Rural Affairs submitted comments and recommendations on the new rule as part of the public comment period, which ended on Jan. 13.

“While we are concerned about how funding decreases will impact participation in CSP, we are glad to see several of the changes to the program, including new emphasis on soil health and advanced grazing management, expanded practices within bundles, and administrative flexibility to increase payments mid-contract,” the letter said.  

The Center’s comments follow a few major themes to further improve CSP. 

“We ask NRCS to restore balance to its consideration and weighting of existing conservation and new conservation in administering the program; to increase fairness and access for all producers; and to improve certain administrative aspects of the program,” the letter said. 

Click here to read the full letter.