The first participants of USDA's Conservation Stewardship Program have from July 11 until Sept. 12 to renew their contracts and make decisions on additional soil, water and other conservation activities and practices benefiting priority natural resource issues. CSP, a voluntary program offered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, helps farmers and ranchers take conservation investments to the next level.
About 20,000 CSP contracts nationwide will soon reach the end of their initial five-year contract period. Participants may renew these contracts for an additional five years when they agree to complete additional conservation measures. More than 1,400 Iowa farmers are eligible for this CSP contract renewal.
The 2014 Farm Bill heightens CSP program's focus
"CSP farmers are conservation leaders who go the extra mile to conserve Iowa's resources," says Iowa NRCS state conservationist Jay Mar. "The 2014 Farm Bill is continuing that strong commitment and it heightens the program's focus on generating conservation benefits."
Since CSP began in 2009, more than 58 million acres nationwide have been enrolled in the program: an area the size of Indiana and Wisconsin combined. CSP participants boost conservation benefits by installing new conservation activities that make positive changes in soil, water, air and wildlife habitat. "This program allows landowners to reach the next level of conservation and opens the door to trying new conservation activities," Mar says.
For example, the program has helped Cass County farmer Kris Wernimont use nutrients more wisely on her 231-acre southwest Iowa farm. She says she feels one particular enhancement, split nitrogen application, is not only environmentally friendly, but it also helps increase profits. This practice involves applying 50% of total crop nitrogen needs within 30 days prior to planting and the remaining 50% after crop emergence. "We are making better use of our nutrients," she says. "The plant can now use nitrogen as needed, when it needs it, and in a timely manner."
CSP payments are based on conservation performance
The Conservation Stewardship Program helps ag producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance: the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve resource condition including soil quality, water quality, water quantity, air quality and habitat quality, as well as energy.
To learn about technical and financial assistance available through CSP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted, the Conservation Stewardship webpage or local USDA service center.
What's new in CSP? The 2014 Farm Bill increased the program's focus on generating additional conservation benefits, removed the limit on the number of nonindustrial private forestland acres that can be enrolled in CSP, and increased flexibility to enroll land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program. There is a payment limit. A person or legal entity may not receive more than $200,000 during fiscal years 2014 through 2018.
For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill
USDA announces wetland compliance listening session
In other USDA/NRCS news, the agency announced July 8 that it will host a listening session on Monday, July 28, to seek comments on proposed changes to wetland compliance provisions. The session will be at in Ankeny in central Iowa, at Ankeny Fire Station #1, 120 N.W. Ash Drive, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The session will provide an opportunity for farmers and the public to provide comments on several proposed technical changes and clarifications, including the agency's use of offsite wetland determination procedures. NRCS is also soliciting input on the wetland mitigation banking pilot provision provided in the Agricultural Act of 2014.
Iowa is one of six states to hold listening sessions. Four of the sessions, including Iowa, will take place in the Prairie Pothole Region, where numerous small seasonal wetlands provide important breeding and nesting for more than 60% of the Nation's migratory waterfowl.
"We want landowners to understand and meet their wetland compliance responsibilities which are a condition of participating in USDA programs, including crop insurance," says Jay Mar, state conservationist for Iowa NRCS. For more information about wetland compliance, visit your local NRCS office or go online.