Conservation Stewardship Program Sign-up Period Open- Closes Feb 3

In November 2016, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) opened the sign-up period for the newly revamped Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The CSP provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement and improve conservation practices on their working lands. The reinvented CSP includes many positive new provisions including the continuation of the minimum contract payment of $1500. This provision benefits smaller scale farms like many in the NESAWG regionThe sign-up period ends on February 3rd. Farmers and ranchers must meet the February 3rd deadline to be considered for the 2017 award cycle.

The initial application process is very simple. Interested farmers and ranchers must complete a quick form that asks for basic contact, land ownership, and land usage information. This application is only for new applicants. Those who received 2013 CSP awards will have a separate deadline that has yet to be announced. 

Though there is still work to be done to make the CSP more transparent and effective, many of the new provisions are positive improvements. The extension of the minimum contract payment of $1500 for all successful applicants benefits small scale farmers. Previously the minimum contract payment was available only to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and all other farmers were given awards on a per acre basis. That meant large farms could receive huge payments for implementing a conservation practice while a small farm would receive much less for the same practice. Extending the minimum contract payment ensures that smaller scale farms receive more equal benefits from the CSP. Other updates to the CSP include a new eligibility evaluation tool, the Conservation Activity Evaluation Tool (CAET), and a new ranking tool, the Application, Evaluation and Ranking Tool (AERT).

The CSP is an incredibly important and impactful program that rewards and provides assistance to farmers for the conservation of water, soil, air quality, wildlife, and biodiversity. Farmers and ranchers should take a close look at the new provisions to determine if they may be interested or eligible. Interested farmers and ranchers must apply by the February 3rd deadline to be considered for the 2017 award cycle. For more information, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provides a CSP Information Alert  and a Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program that outlines what farmers need to know about the updated CSP. 

CSP Application Form - due February 3, 2017