The deadline to enroll in the federal Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended from February 27 to March 13th. Farmers and Ranchers wishing to take advantage of the nation’s largest federal conservation program still have time to apply.
CSP rewards producers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce on their working agricultural lands; all private agricultural land, including cropland, pasture, and rangeland, is eligible to enroll in CSP. Additionally, the variety of conservation practices and program rules have been expanded to better represent a more diverse type of applicant in accordance with the new 2014 Farm Bill. Farmers from all size operations and raising crops of any variety are encouraged to apply. CSP contract-holding farmers can receive payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming.
Details on this year’s program are available for free in an Information Alert published this week by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Although NRCS accepts applications all year, agricultural producers and forest landowners should submit applications by Feb. 27, 2015 to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding. Applications received after that date will be considered for future funding. Applications will be scored and ranked based on farmers’ current and planned on-farm conservation activities, and the applications offering the highest level of environmental benefits will be awarded CSP contracts.
CSP contract holders that enrolled in 2011 are now in the final year of their five-year contract and are therefore eligible to renew for another five years. Initial requests to renew must be submitted to local NRCS offices by March 31.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance as well as other organizations have been working hard to expand, support, and promote the good conservation practices found in the NRCS CSP activities list. To help farmers get a better idea about what Conservation Stewardship Program looks like in practice, they’ve talked to Illinois farmers involved in CSP and created profiles filled with tips on how farmers can use CSP to their advantage, and what pitfalls to avoid when starting off. Click on any of the profiles below for more information.
“We are at a turning point,” says Woody Woodruff, Illinois Stewardship Alliance Conservation Associate and small farmer. “Farm input prices are climbing and environmental concerns with regards to agriculture are growing. CSP offers farmers a way to manage these growing pressures by providing a low risk opportunity for farmers to see how the results of long-term conservation plans can benefit the overall health of their land and water, and in turn, the health of their bottom line.”
Producers are encouraged to fill out the NRCS’ Self-Screening Checklist to help determine if CSP is right for their farm and interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office. You can find your local NRCS office by clicking here.