USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting new applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program. The next cutoff date for CSP applications is Jan. 7, 2011.
CSP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) authorizes CSP, which is available to all farmers nationwide. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, non-industrial private forestland, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.
Eligible applicants may include individual landowners, legal entities and Indian tribes. Although CSP is a continuous sign-up program, agricultural and forestry producers must submit applications by Jan. 7, 2011 to be considered for the next round of funding.
Interested farmers should apply early to be considered for funding
Rich Sims, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa, encourages interested farmers to apply early to be considered for funding. "We realize farmers are very busy right now, but if they can find time to visit their local NRCS office now to sign up for the program, much of the background application work can be completed later in the year," he says.
Potential participants can use a self-screening checklist first to determine whether the new program is suitable for them or their operation. The checklist is available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html and at NRCS field offices. After self-screening, the producer's current and proposed conservation practices are entered in the conservation measurement tool. This tool estimates the level of environmental performance to be achieved by a producer implementing and maintaining conservation activity. The conservation performance estimated by the CMT will be used to rank applications.
Once approved for funding, you must develop a conservation plan
NRCS field staff will also conduct on-site field verifications of applicants' information obtained from the CMT. Once the potential participant has been field verified and approved for funding, he or she must develop a conservation stewardship plan.
In the past year NRCS obligated more than $20 million to Iowa farmers through 1,480 contracts covering nearly 800,000 acres through CSP. That includes CSP contracts in Iowa's selected Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) watersheds. For information about CSP, including eligibility requirements, producers can visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html or visit their local NRCS office.