FAQ: USDA on December 3 launched the sign-up period for 2014 Conservation Stewardship Program. Farmers compete to get into this program. How can I improve the odds that my application will be accepted to enroll in CSP? How can I boost my environmental benefits score?
Answer: USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced the 2014 enrollment process for farmers wanting to participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP. Yes, farmers do compete to get into the program, and successful applications are those that offer the highest conservation and environmental benefits. Producers interested in enrolling in CSP for the 2014 fiscal year must submit their initial applications to NRCS by January 17, 2014.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, or NSAC, helped develop the CSP and has followed its progress closely. In conjunction with the USDA announcement, NSAC issued an Information Alert on the 2014 CSP sign-up. The document is available for free online.
A great place for farmers to start with their CSP enrollment
"The Information Alert is a great place for farmers to begin the CSP enrollment process," said NSAC ag policy specialist Sophia Kruszewski. "It organizes all the basic information in one place and provides producers who decide to dig in deeper with the most relevant links for more information."
In addition to providing the timeline for the sign-up and enrollment process, the Information Alert includes basic sign-up information, describes changes made to the program for the 2014 sign-up, and ranks the conservation practices and enhancements being offered by their environmental benefits score or EBI.
"CSP is incredibly popular with producers, with applications to enroll consistently exceeding available funding," says Kruszewski. "Farmers planning to enroll should work with their local NRCS office to maximize the environmental benefits offered in their CSP application."
Improve your odds of being accepted into this innovative "working lands" conservation program
CSP is an innovative working lands conservation program that rewards farmers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce. CSP is administered by NRCS and available on a nationwide basis. CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship. Assistance is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and for implementing new conservation activities (called enhancements) on land in agricultural production.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
In the first five enrollment years for CSP (2009-2013) approximately 46,000 farmers and ranchers have enrolled nearly 60 million acres of farm and ranch land; that land is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts valued at $804 million a year.
A new five-year farm bill is pending in Congress. At this point in time, it is unclear whether a new farm bill will be adopted in the next month, or whether the old farm bill will be extended for a second straight year. Although a new bill would likely reduce funding for future CSP enrollments by at least 10%, it's not expected to have any significant impact on 2014 CSP enrollment.
While new farm bill will be adopted, many people continue to oppose cuts to CSP and other conservation programs
"While we hope a new farm bill will be adopted, we continue to oppose cuts to CSP and other conservation programs and hope Congress will keep any cuts to a minimum," says Kruszewski. "But with some cuts possibly coming in future years, it behooves farmers and ranchers who may be considering CSP to apply this year in order to maximize their enrollment chances."
In addition to the Information Alert, producers will find more detailed information about CSP in NSAC's Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program also available for free download at the NSAC website.
The guide provides clear information on conservation activities eligible for CSP payments to improve conservation performance and environmental benefits. It also includes step-by-step enrollment guidance, key definitions and helpful hints. NSAC periodically analyzes CSP data from NRCS and makes this information available on its website. Recently, NSAC published a series of posts analyzing trends in CSP use across the country, looking at total enrollment and land management from 2009-2012.