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USDA Offers Renewal Options For Producers With Expiring Contracts

By Seth Fiedler
CSP Program Manager

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that $150 million in funding is available for agricultural producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s largest conservation program that helps producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls of CSP during fiscal 2016.
“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 says. “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.”

Mexico field

To maximize irrigation water, this farmer in southeastern New Mexico uses a lower elevation sprinkler application, or LESA. LESA reduces water loss due to wind and helps to more evenly apply water to crops.

March 31 Deadline
NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but producers should submit applications by March 31 to USDA service centers to ensure that they are considered for enrollment in 2016.

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31, 2016, have the option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands.
Applications to renew contracts are also due by March 31.

In addition, NRCS makes CSP available to producers as another opportunity to participate in regional landscape-level conservation efforts, including the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

Self-Screening Checklist
Funding is available for more than 100 kinds of enhancements nationwide to help participants:

  • Improve soil quality through use of cover crops, conservation crop rotations and other activities that increase soil productivity.
  • Use water wisely and improve water quality through enhancements, such as more efficient
    irrigation systems and weather monitoring.
  • Restore habitat for wildlife and pollinators, such as the greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken and monarch butterfly, through the use of better grazing systems and improved plant
    management.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is compatible with their operation.
As part of the process, applicants 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. This will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.

Financial Commitment
Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Also since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat.

For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-results.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service contributed this article.