FAQ: I heard USDA is extending for two weeks the deadline to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program. What is the new date? How much paperwork do I need to fill out to sign up?
The cutoff date for farmers and ranchers to apply to participate in the 2012 sign-up for the Conservation Stewardship Program has been extended by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) until January 27. By this date, farmers and ranchers interesting in participating in the program need to submit a short two-page application form to their local NRCS office.
“We applaud USDA for extending the signup by two weeks,” says Greg Fogel, a policy specialist with the National Sustainable Ag Coalition. “The bulk of the original sign-up period was scheduled to run during the year-end holiday season. Thus, USDA is warranted in making this extra time available for sign-up--in our view.”
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which helped develop the program and has followed its progress closely over the years, has issued a five-page Information Alert on the 2012 sign-up. The document is available free online at www.sustainableagriculture.net. In addition to basic sign-up information and pointers, the Alert also describes and explains changes made to the CSP program for this sign-up, including new conservation practices and enhancements being offered.
New conservation practices and other changes made in CSP program
The CSP is a working lands conservation program available on a nationwide basis. CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers 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 on land in agricultural production.
In the program’s first three enrollment years (2009, 2010 and 2011) NRCS has enrolled 30,197 farmers and ranchers nationwide--operating nearly 38 million acres of farm and ranch land that is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts. For those first three enrollment classes, annual CSP payments are currently over $510 million a year on a nationwide basis.
The enrollment process is competitive, based on environmental benefits, and will be even more competitive than usual in 2012 as the total acres to be enrolled will be as much as a third less than the 12.8 million acre per year level provided by the 2008 Farm Bill. The 2012 version of CSP will have an enrollment cap between 9 million and 10 million acres due to a budget cut to the program made by Congress in the FY 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act.
Enrollment process now even more competitive, with tighter cap on acreage
Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forest lands, and agricultural land under tribal jurisdiction. Applicants must demonstrate they have effective control over these lands to be eligible, either through ownership or reasonably secure leases.
Producers wanting more detailed information may want to review NSAC's Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program available for free download at http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/. 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.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.