USDA will enroll 10 million acres of farm and ranch land in the Conservation Stewardship Program this year, with payments to farmers and ranchers of over three-quarters of a billion dollars over the next five years.
March 31 is also the deadline by which initial applications are needed from farmers with expiring 2012-2016 contracts if they want to renew them for another five years. Some 12 million acres already in the program are eligible for renewal this year.
“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,” USDA Secretary Tom 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.”
Easy First Step
The initial step to apply to CSP is easy. Farmers and ranchers can go to their local NRCS office and submit the initial application to enroll, which is a simple form that asks for basic information regarding land ownership, type of production, and contact information.
While applicants can sign up anytime throughout the year for CSP, producers should submit applications by March 31 to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016. This year’s deadline carries particular significance, as a major program overhaul is scheduled for 2017. In order for producers to enroll in CSP under its existing structure, ranking process, and current conservation activities, they must apply before the March 31 deadline.
Once a farmer or rancher’s initial application is accepted by NRCS, they are then scored based on current and planned future conservation activities. If applicants meet acceptable conservation levels, they become eligible to compete in a ranking process that determines who will receive contracts. NRCS works down through the list of eligible applicants until acreage allocated to the particular state for that particular year runs out.
Find out more about CSP from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)