USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced this year’s deadline for producer applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is March 31.
March 31 is also the deadline by which initial applications are needed from farmers with expiring 2012-2016 contracts if they want to renew them for another five years. Some 12 million acres already in the program are eligible for renewal this year.
“CSP is a continuous sign-up program, and producers can apply to enroll at any time of the year,” said Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate for Agriculture and Conservation at the Center for Rural Affairs. “NRCS applies a cut-off date for applications to be considered during a particular fiscal year. Once the cut-off date is past, producers may continue to apply, but they will not be considered for entry until the spring of the following year. To enroll in 2016, you must file your application by March 31.”
The Conservation Stewardship Program is a voluntary stewardship incentives program administered by NRCS. It rewards farmers, ranchers, and foresters for maintaining existing conservation and for adopting additional measures that run beyond the farm or ranch.
CSP pays producers for clean water, better soil management, improved habitat, energy efficiency, and other natural resource benefits. Since the program began in 2009, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled in the program.
To sign up, farmers and ranchers should visit their NRCS local service center and submit their basic application form by the March 31 deadline. To find a local service center visit: http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?agency=nrcs
“Once a farmer or rancher’s initial application is accepted by NRCS, they are then scored based on current and planned future conservation activities,” added Bruckner. “If applicants meet acceptable conservation levels, they become eligible to compete in a ranking process that determines who will receive contracts. NRCS works down through the list of eligible applicants until acreage allocated to the particular state for that particular year runs out.”
March 31 is also the deadline for CSP contract holders who enrolled in 2012 to renew. CSP contracts last for five years and can be renewed for an additional five years, extending and building upon their previous conservation efforts and current level of stewardship.
Existing CSP contracts enrolled in 2012 will expire later this year if they are not renewed by March 31. Producers should act now to ensure a seamless transition into another five-year contract and avoid any lapse in payments.
Approximately 12 million acres and 8,000 contracts are up for renewal this year.