The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that funds will be available this year through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). 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.
“CSP offers an incentive for agricultural producers and private forest landowners who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship,” said Ivan Dozier, State Conservationist of USDA’s NRCS. “By focusing on multiple resource concerns, producers can achieve a sustainable landscape and maintain or increase the productivity of their operation.”
Through CSP, participants take additional conservation steps to improve resource conditions on their land, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation. Dozier said CSP producers are conservation leaders, showing how science-based conservation and technological advancements can improve the environment and farming operations at the same time.
The 2014 Farm Bill brought changes to CSP, including an expanded conservation activity list that offers participants more choice and more options to meet their conservation needs and address natural resource issues on their land. These conservation activities, called enhancements, include cover crops, intensive rotational grazing and prairie restoration, among others.
“CSP is a great addition to our conservation toolbox for stewardship-minded producers here in Illinois. They get rewarded for the great practices they already use and they can work with new options to take things a step further,” Dozier said.
Interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office. As part of the CSP application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land. The inventory helps determine their conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. Each applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments. Producers can use the CSP self-screening checklist to learn if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements, and different payment types.
For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or a local USDA service center.