The U.S. Department of Agriculture will publish a final rule on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest conservation program that helps agricultural producers voluntarily improve the health and productivity of private and tribal working lands. These rule changes will make the program more flexible and responsive to the unique needs of farmers and ranchers in each region of the U.S.
The final rule to be published in the Federal Register March 10, 2016, responds to public input and makes permanent the changes that were made in the interim final rule. Significantly, the final rule raises the minimum contract payment for all participants to $1,500 per year, provides increased flexibility for adopting conservation activities and enhancements, and clarifies provisions related to how land transfers affect program participation.
CSP was reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. USDA published an interim final rule on November 4, 2015, and accepted public comments through January 20, 2015. USDA received nearly 500 comments from 227 respondents on the interim final rule and evaluated the comments in the development of the final rule.
The Conservation Stewardship Program is USDA’s largest conservation program by acreage. Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres.
Related story: Apply by March 31 to be considered for CSP in 2016
Last month, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $150 million in funding for agricultural producers through an estimated 10 million acres that will be added to the rolls of CSP during fiscal 2016.