The Iowa office of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is reminding farmers about the renewal option for the Conservation Stewardship Program. The 5-year CSP contracts originally made in 2011 will expire soon. Now is the time to sign up to renew them. The signup period to apply for renewal runs through March 31, 2015.
"Contact your local NRCS office for information or if you have questions," says Dave Brommel, CSP coordinator for NRCS in Iowa.
What about entering new land in the CRP, land that's not already in the program? USDA is extending the deadline two weeks for farmers to submit applications for the general CSP signup in 2015, notes Brommel. NRCS made that announcement last week. So, you have until March 13 to apply for a contract to enter land into the CSP for the first time. And you have until March 31 to renew expiring CSP contracts.
You must adopt additional practices for CSP contract renewal
To qualify for a CSP contract renewal, producers must adopt additional conservation activities to help them achieve higher levels of conservation on their farms.
There are two ways you can sign up to participate in CSP, he explains. Through the general CSP sign up period which is announced each year. Or, through the continuous sign-up—meaning you can sign up for CSP any time of year. But NRCS periodically makes funding selections and that's when you can apply to put land in CRP in the general signup period. Last year, Iowa NRCS obligated more than $4.5 million through a total of 436 CSP contracts covering 201,000 acres in the state.
Earn higher payments for higher conservation performance
The CSP program emphasizes conservation performance—producers earn higher payments for higher performance. The more conservation practices they use on the land, the bigger the payment they get for participating in the CSP. Through the program producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil health, soil erosion control, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy saving.
"CSP farmers are conservation leaders in their communities who work hard at enhancing natural resources on private lands," says NRCS chief Jason Weller. "By extending the deadline to apply for the general sign-up in 2015, we are ensuring that landowners will be able to take advantage of a program that will enroll up to 7.7 million U.S. acres this year."
Adding more practices allows you to renew expiring CSP contracts
Changes in the 2014 Farm Bill allow CSP participants with expiring contracts to renew them by exceeding stewardship thresholds for two or more existing natural resource concerns, such as improving water quality or improving soil health.
CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through use of various soil and water conservation enhancement options. The nutrient strategy includes use of practices designed to reduce nutrient loads into streams and rivers from nonpoint sources such as farm fields.
If you are interested in signing up and participating in the program, a CSP self-screening checklist is available to help you determine if the program is suitable for your farming operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. You can learn more about CSP by visiting the Iowa NRCS website or your local NRCS field office.