Conservation stewards, act now

From contributed reports
District Conservationist Rex Rexrode says there is still time for farmers to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program that is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Producers may apply at anytime for CSP; however, the second period for evaluating applications for this year’s funding runs until May 14.

CSP offers incentive payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to an even higher level of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, improved pastureland and non-industrial forestland.

Potential applicants are encouraged to use a self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from the local NRCS office or online on NRCS Web sites.

There is also a Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) which landowners will complete with NRCS staff to estimate the level of environmental performance to be achieved by implementing various conservation measures. NRCS field staff will conduct on-site verifications of applicant’s information prior to approving contracts. Rankings will be competitive based on the conservation performance estimated in the CMT.

CSP offers two types of payments ― an annual payment and a supplemental payment. The annual payments will be determined by estimating conservation performance improvement based on the land use. An additional supplemental payment is available to approved participants who adopt a resource-conserving crop rotation on cropland.

Contracts are for five years and must cover the eligible land in the entire operation. There is an annual payment limitation of $40,000 and payments cannot exceed $200,000 for all contracts entered into during any five year period.

Landowners can apply for CSP at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office; call 540-825-4200 or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp for more information.

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