The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service will begin accepting applications to re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program on July 11, 2014. This renewal option is specifically for farmers and ranchers who enrolled in CSP initially in 2010.
CSP contracts last for five years, at which time they are eligible for renewal. These contracts eligible for renewal began under two different enrollment periods in 2010. One group of contracts is set to expire on September 30, 2014 and the other will expire on December 31, 2014. Both groups now have a two-month window of opportunity between July 11 and September 12 to renew their contracts through this process.
IT PAYS TO RENEW: It is optional to renew an expiring contract, and participants who do not re-enroll can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual CSP signups. However, there is significant benefit to renewing now: the process for renewing is non-competitive and much simpler than re-applying through the competitive process later, and participants will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments. By July 11, NRCS will mail letters to all CSP participants with contracts that are set to expire this year. The producer must then sign up for the renewal offer between July 11 and September 12, 2014. Following this initial renewal period, eligibility determinations and obligations will be completed in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2015.
Participants will need to meet additional renewal criteria. Under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, CSP contract holders can renew their contracts provided: they have met the terms of their initial contract; agree to adopt and continue to integrate conservation activities across the entire operation; and agree to either meet the stewardship threshold of at least two additional priority resource concerns or exceed the stewardship threshold of at least two existing priority resource concerns by the end of the renewed contract period. I suggest that you ask your NRCS agent upfront if you meet or exceed the stewardship threshold or whether you will need to add conservation enhancements and practices to meet some of the stewardship thresholds.
These terms are slightly different than the terms for the renewals under the 2008 Farm Bill, so it would be wise for producers interested in renewing to check in with your local NRCS office for precise information about how the 2014 Farm Bill renewal terms will work in your practice.