Last week, Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced that the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the USDA’s largest conservation program, has $150 million in funding available for agricultural producers to improve their land. The funding is set up to help producers improve the overall health and productivity of their private or Tribal working lands.
“The Conservation Stewardship Program is one of our most popular programs with producers because it results in real change on the ground by boosting soil and air quality, conserving clean water and enhancing wildlife habitat,” Vilsack said. “With this investment, we’ll be able to build on the already record number of acres enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs, enabling producers to achieve higher levels of conservation and adopt new and emerging conservation technologies on farms, ranches and forests.”
Although NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, producers are encouraged to submit their applications by March 31 to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016 and can be considered for assistance. Holders of existing CSP contracts expiring Dec. 31 have the option to renew their contracts by March 31 for an additional five years, as long as they strive to devote efforts to conservation on their land.
To help producers decide if the program is fitting to their operation, a CSP self-screening checklist is available online. Plus, as part of the application process, producers will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land to determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments. For details on submitting an application or to learn more about USDA assistance, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.
Through CSP, the USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to agricultural producers to enhance land and resource conservation on more than 70 million acres. Alongside its assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest managers, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls of CSP during fiscal 2016.