Athens, GA. Jan. 29 2015 –The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make available $100 million this year through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and although applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners should submit applications by Feb. 27, 2015 to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding (applications received after that date will be considered for future funding). This year’s investment may result in the enrollment of up to 7.7 million acres in the program by private landowners nationwide.
“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,” said Georgia’s State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “By focusing on multiple resource concerns, landowners are able to achieve a sustainable landscape and maintain or increase the productivity of their operations.”
Through CSP, participants take additional conservation steps to improve the resource conditions on their land, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.
Rudolph added “CSP producers like Bulloch county farmer Morris Prince are conservation leaders, showing how science-based conservation and technological advancements can improve the environment and farming operations at the same time.” Prince uses conservation tillage methods as part of a two year crop rotation of cotton and peanuts. By making fewer passes in the field with his equipment he has lowered his fuel costs and reduced soil compaction. He also uses cover crops to reduce erosion, build up organic matter in the soil and help retain moisture. This stewardship of natural resources, incentivized through CSP, helps conserve energy and leads to cleaner water and healthier soil.
The 2014 Farm Bill brought 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.
CSP will also help broaden the impacts of NRCS’ Landscape Conservation Initiatives through a new pilot effort, which accelerates private lands conservation activities to address particular goals, such as creating habitat for at-risk species and conserving and cleaning water. For Georgia they include:
- Longleaf Pine Initiative – Applicable states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
In other regions around the US the Landscape Conservation Initiatives include:
- Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative – Applicable states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas;
- Ogallala Aquifer Initiative – Applicable states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming;
- Sage-Grouse Initiative – Applicable states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
“CSP is a great addition to our conservation toolbox for our Landscape Conservation Initiatives, which rally together landowners at the broader level to make conservation improvements that help us tackle our nation’s resource issues,” Rudolph said. “Historically, other conservation programs have driven these initiatives, but now with CSP, we’ll be bringing more farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to these efforts.”
Applications should be submitted to local NRCS offices. 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 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.
Today’s announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life.