USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications at local field offices for the 2015 Conservation Stewardship Program signup. Iowa farmers who apply by Feb. 27, 2015, will receive first consideration for funding selections.
CSP is offered through a continuous signup, but NRCS periodically makes funding selections. Last year in Iowa, NRCS obligated more than $4.5 million through 436 contracts covering 201,000 acres. The program emphasizes conservation performance – producers earn higher payments for higher performance. Through CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil health, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy.
CSP provides incentive for farmers to go "above and beyond"
"CSP is a way of incentivizing farmers who maintain a high level of soil and water conservation practices on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship," says Jay Mar, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa. "By focusing on multiple resource concerns, landowners are able to achieve a sustainable landscape and maintain or increase the productivity of their operations."
CSP also supports the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy through various enhancement options. The Iowa strategy includes practices designed to reduce nutrient loads from nonpoint sources such as farm fields. Some popular CSP nutrient reduction enhancements used by Iowa farmers include:
Cover crops to scavenge residual nitrogen;
Precision application technology to apply nutrients;
Split nitrogen application (50% after crop emergence or pasture green-up);
Plant tissue tests and analysis to improve nitrogen management.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation, says Mar. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. You can learn more about CSP by visiting the Iowa NRCS website or visiting your local NRCS field office.