USDA began a continuous sign-up period for the new Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, on August 10. This first sign-up period has a cutoff scheduled for September 30. CSP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their farming operations.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (commonly known as the 2008 Farm Bill) authorizes the new version of the CSP. Congress renamed and revamped the former program, which was called the Conservation Security Program, completely to improve its availability and appeal to farmers and forestry producers. The new CSP is available to all producers nationwide. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, non-industrial private forestland (a new land use for the program) and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe.
Contact your NRCS office for more information
CSP is administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Rich Sims, state conservationist for NRCS in Iowa, says CSP will help Iowa's agricultural producers reach greater levels of conservation performance. "Conservation performance levels derived from maintaining and enhancing natural resources will improve the quality of soil and water, assist in addressing global climate change, and encourage environmentally responsible energy production," says Sims.
Eligible applicants may include individual landowners, legal entities and Indian tribes. Although CSP is continuous sign up, agricultural and forestry producers must submit applications by Sept. 30 to be considered for funding in the first ranking period, he adds.
You are encouraged to use a self-screening checklist
To apply for the newly revamped CSP, potential participants are encouraged to use a self-screening checklist first to determine whether the new program is suitable for them or their operation. The checklist is available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp and at NRCS field offices.
After completing the self-screening, the producer's current and proposed conservation practices are entered in the conservation measurement tool. This tool estimates the level of environmental performance to be achieved by a producer implementing and maintaining conservation activity. The conservation performance estimated by the CMT will be used to rank applications.
Priority resource concerns are one of the criteria that will be used to rank applications. Iowa's priority resource concerns include soil quality, soil erosion, water quality and livestock. Iowa will establish a ranking pool to rank applications with similar resource concerns.
NRCS field staff will also conduct on-site field verifications of applicants' information obtained from the CMT. Once the potential participant has been field verified and approved for funding, he or she must develop a conservation stewardship plan.
For information about CSP, including eligibility requirements, producers can visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp or visit their local NRCS field office.