Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering a renewal option through Tuesday, March 31, 2015 for eligible agricultural producers and forest landowners with expiring Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts. These producers must be willing to adopt additional conservation activities aimed at helping them achieve higher levels of conservation on their farms, forests and ranches.
USDA will also extend the deadline for general sign-up CSP applications until Friday, March 13, 2015 providing farmers, ranchers, and private forest managers two additional weeks to apply for this funding round of $100 million.
Georgia NRCS State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph previously said, “CSP is a way of incentivizing farmers, ranchers, and private forest managers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship.” Rudolph added “Georgia’s producers now have more time to consider how CSP can make a difference in their farming, ranching or timber producing operations.”
Through CSP, participants take additional conservation steps over a five year contract period to improve the resource conditions on their land, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.
The 2014 Farm Bill brought several changes to CSP including an expanded conservation activity list that will offer participants greater options to meet their conservation needs and protect the natural resources on their land. These conservation activities, called enhancements, include cover crops, intensive rotational grazing and wildlife friendly fencing.
“Those forest landowners that have completed Longleaf Pine Initiative contracts or Conservation Reserve Program contracts are strongly encouraged to consider the Longleaf Pine Initiative’s CSP pilot,” Georgia NRCS State Forester Michael Sampson said. “Whether it is conducting prescribed burning or planting pollinator habitat in these unique forests, landowners should take this extension period to evaluate if CSP is right for them.”
Along with the renewal option announced today, USDA announced last month that it will make available $100 million this year through the CSP in 2015. Although CSP applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners should submit applications by the funding deadline, extended to Friday, March 13, to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding. Applications should be submitted to local NRCS offices, and as part of the CSP application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land, which will help determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. The applicant’s conservation performance will be used to determine eligibility, ranking and payments.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available on our national website to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. Additionally, you can visit the Georgia CSP website for information about the longleaf pilot project.