FAQ: Last week I heard USDA has extended the deadline for farmers to apply to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program for 2014. What do I need to do to participate in CSP?
Answer: Yes, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has extended the deadline for new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program for fiscal year 2014. The new CSP deadline is February 7; the previously announced deadline was January 17. Producers interested in participating in the program can now submit applications at their local NRCS office.
"Extending the enrollment deadline will make it possible for more farmers and forest landowners to apply for this important conservation program," says Jay Mar, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa. "Through their conservation efforts, these good stewards who participate in this program are ensuring that their farming operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run."
CSP application is offered all year through a continuous signup, but NRCS periodically makes funding selections when the money is available. To be eligible for fiscal year 2014 participation, you need to apply before February 7. Last year, Iowa NRCS obligated more than $3.8 million through 381 CSP contracts with farmers, covering 175,346 acres.
Participating farmers can earn higher payments, if they use higher performing conservation practices
"The CSP program emphasizes conservation performance—producers earn higher payments for higher performance," says Mar. "Through CSP, farmers install conservation enhancements. These are conservation practices that put more conservation on the land and require extra effort—to make positive changes to improve soil health, soil erosion control, water quality, air quality, protecting plant resources, animal resources and saving energy."
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help farmers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. To access the self-screening checklist or learn more about CSP, visit the Iowa NRCS website or your local NRCS field office.
QUESTION: Producers who apply for CSP compete to get accepted into the program, as there is only a certain amount of money available in USDA's budget for CSP each year. What can I as a farmer do to improve the chances of my application being accepted into the CSP program?
Answer: Successful applications are those that offer the highest conservation and environmental benefits. The additional three weeks to apply for the 2014 CSP (deadline is February 7) will provide interested farmers an extra opportunity to submit their initial applications.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition or NASC helped develop CSP and has followed its progress closely. In conjunction with the USDA announcement about the recent extension of the deadline to February 7, NSAC has issued an Information Alert on the 2014 CSP sign-up. The document is available for free on the NSAC website or by clicking here to get a PDF.
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.
CSP is an innovative working lands conservation program that rewards farmer and ranchers 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~~~
QUESTION: Where can I find the Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program? I've been told it includes step-by-step enrollment guidance and other helpful hints.
Answer: In addition to the newly released 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 online.
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, land management and participation by beginning, socially disadvantaged, organic, and transitioning-to-organic producers from 2009-2012.