Farm operators are facing a sign-up deadline of Sept. 30 for the new federal Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), according to Iowa State University Extension economist Mike Duffy.
The CSP is a program created by the 2008 Farm Bill that replaces the previous program, called the Conservation Security Program, that was created by the 2002 Farm Bill. The new CSP has a continuous sign-up, but Sept. 30 is the deadline for the operator to inform the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that the operator intends to apply for the program—if you want to be included in this first ranking period. There will be other ranking periods announced in the future by NRCS.
Duffy said while the acronyms for the two programs are the same—the program is still called the CSP—the two programs are entirely different. The new program is available statewide and will offer a farm operator payments based on additional conservation measures they adopt for at least five years. The old program was available only in certain watersheds, as determined by USDA.
How eligibility to participate in CSP is determined
"Basically under the CSP the farmer works with an NRCS conservationist and discusses the conservation practices the farmer currently uses and the ones the farmer intends to adopt. The current practices determine eligibility for CSP and they count in the final ranking for the operator," says Duffy.
The practices considered are those that affect the primary resources of concern for Iowa: water quality, air quality, soil quality and animals. The list of practices includes things as injecting or incorporating manure, dust control on unpaved roads, extending existing filter strips, recycling farm lubricants and converting to no-till. There are many other practices for cropland, pasture and forest.
The NRCS conservationist and the farm operator review the practices using a Conservation Measurement Tool developed by NRCS. The operator must meet a minimum conservation standard to be eligible and they must add new conservation practices.
Operators are ranked on basis of their point total
After evaluating the existing practices and the proposed new practices, the operator will be assigned a point total based on these practices. The operators are ranked on the basis of their point total and the operators with the highest number of points will be eligible for the per acre payments.
"Currently we do not know the exact payment per acre, but NRCS has estimated nationwide the payments will be somewhere between $12 and $22 per acre. A payment close to $16 per acre will be the most likely outcome," says Duffy.
He notes that there are a few other things to remember for individual producers when they consider enrolling in the CSP:
- The contracts are for five years.
- All owned and operated land must be included.
- If rented land is to be considered as part of the operation, the producer must show proof of control for at least five years.
- Payments are based only on acres considered part of the operation.
- There can be no double payments for existing land under a conservation payment program.
- There have to be at least some new conservation practices added. Existing practices will be factored into the ranking and will affect the operator's payment.
- The final ranking for practices has not been determined, but the operator is required to notify NRCS that they would like to apply for the program by Sept. 30.
Provision to receive a special one-time payment
In addition to the annual payments there is a special provision in the new CSP for the operator to receive a one-time payment for a new resource-conserving crop rotation. A resource conserving rotation must be at least three years and include a high residue crop, a cover crop or some type of perennial grass for at least one-third of the acres.
Duffy says the NRCS has developed a self-screening checklist for operators to determine if the Conservation Stewardship Program is a good program for them. All producers should complete the checklist. "This is a good tool to help them decide if they are eligible and should enroll in the program," says Duffy. The checklist and other information about the Conservation Stewardship Program is available at the county offices or on line at: www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp2009.html. For more information on the CSP an operator should visit the NRCS web site or their local office.