Conservation Stewardship and Value Added Deadlines Approaching - Center for Rural Affairs offers Farm Bill Helpline to Assist Producers

Release Date: 

12/18/2013

Contact(s): 

Traci Bruckner, tracib@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1016
or; John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org(563) 581-2867 (cellular)

Washington, DC - USDA's National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced the opening of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments in 2014. Farmers, ranchers and foresters interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS through January 17, 2014 to be considered in the 2014 round of ranking applications and awarding contracts.

“The CSP is a continuous sign-up program that has periodic cut-off dates for ranking applications. January 17, 2014 is the deadline for the coming year,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate for Agriculture and Conservation at the Center for Rural Affairs. “Applications can be filed at your local NRCS office, and you just have to submit the basic application form by the January 17 deadline.”

According to Bruckner, the Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary stewardship incentives program, administered by NRCS, designed to reward farmers, ranchers, and foresters for maintaining existing conservation, as well as for the adoption of additional conservation measures that provide multiple environmental benefits that run beyond the farm or ranch. This program pays producers for clean water, better soil management, improved habitat, energy efficiency, and other natural resource benefits.

“By 2013 CSP reached over 60 million acres enrolled nationally. CSP is one of the most popular and effective conservation programs, and many will apply, which is why the Center for Rural Affairs has fought to keep reductions in funding to a minimum but Congressional cuts have taken their toll, making the program even more oversubscribed and more competitive,” noted Bruckner. “Producers interested in applying should contact the Center for Rural Affairs helpline and their local NRCS office as soon as possible to meet the deadline.”

“The USDA also announced recently that February 24, 2014 is the deadline to apply for the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program,” Bruckner added. “There is nearly $10.5 million available for this round and, hopefully, additional funding will more than double the pot of money available for grants in the future once Congress finalizes the agricultural funding bill for 2014.”

Farmers or ranchers needing planning funds or working capital to move their value-added ideas forward should check out the Value-Added Producer Grants program. In particular, we urge beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to consider accessing these grants. The 10 percent of funding reserved for these potential applicants makes applying a very attractive possibility, Bruckner added.

Bruckner explained further that agricultural producers, businesses majority-owned by agricultural producers, and organizations representing agricultural producers are eligible to apply for Value Added Producer Grants for business planning or working capital expenses associated with marketing value-added agricultural products. Agricultural producers include farmers, ranchers, loggers, agricultural harvesters and fishermen that engage in the production or harvesting of an agricultural commodity.

"The Center for Rural Affairs has a long history of assisting family farmers and ranchers access farm bill programs," continued Bruckner. "The Center’s Farm Bill helpline provides a direct connection to Center staff with knowledge about program rules to help you understand if a particular program will fit your needs."

Bruckner encouraged potential applicants to call the Center's Farm Bill Helpline to learn more about the application process and help uncover and overcome barriers encountered during that process by calling (402) 687-2100 or emailing her at tracib@cfra.org.

Resources are available to help producers consider the CSP and Value Added grant program and make their applications. In addition to contacting the Center’s Farm Bill Helpline for additional assistance in navigating the application process, application materials and information are available through the Center for Rural Affairs website, USDA’s website, your local NRCS office, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

"These programs are popular and competitive but help is available," commented Bruckner.

          CSP resources for farmers and ranchers:

          USDA’s CSP website - http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp/
          Center for Rural Affairs Helpline - (402) 687-2100 or tracib@cfra.org
          Center for Rural Affairs Value Added Fact Sheet - http://www.cfra.org/node/2672
          USDA Service Center locator - http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app (to locate local NRCS offices)
          National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s Farmers’ Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding is available free at                     http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/ and includes clear information on the application and ranking process

Applicants are encouraged to contact their local NRCS office (CSP) or their state USDA RD office (VAPG) well in advance of the deadline to discuss their projects and ask any questions about the application process.